At eight-thirty on a Saturday morning in late March, Min Yoongi wakes up to a knock at the door. Short, hesitant knocking, as though the person on the other side doesn’t quite want Yoongi to answer. He almost doesn’t, he almost stays in bed – he worked late last night and he doesn’t have to be up for another hour at least. But he gets up. It might be important.
Through the peephole in the door, Yoongi can just about make out a figure dressed mostly in shades of blue, with a lot of hair. He needs to wear his glasses more often, at least if he doesn’t want his eyesight to get even worse. Another knock, more urgent this time. Keeping the chain latched to the door, he opens it enough that he’s face to face with whoever’s standing outside.
“Hi, do you live here?” The shape defines itself into a rather tall person, wearing a lot of denim. Oh, god. This is the opposite of important.
“No,” Yoongi says, and he pushes the door shut. A very solid-looking shoe is wedged between the door and the frame, and it’s not budging no matter how hard Yoongi pushes.
“Can I speak to the person who lives here?” The person asks, barely wincing even as his foot is gently crushed, “My name is Kim Seokjin.”
Yoongi tries to kick Seokjin’s foot away as he backs away from the doorway, “He’s not in.”
Shoving his shoulders and then the rest of his body through the entrance, Seokjin wiggles his way into Yoongi’s apartment. In the space left by Seokjin’s body in the hallway, Yoongi can make out a face peering around the door opposite. He shuts the door, leaves his hand on the handle just in case.
“I’ll wait,” Seokjin says, and he kicks off his shoes, piling them up onto Yoongi’s empty shoe rack. He’s not wearing socks. Now that Yoongi can see all of him, not just a strip of body through the doorway, he can clearly see how much bigger and how much stronger Seokjin looks than Yoongi feels. He takes a couple more steps backwards.
“Uh,” Yoongi says, “What’s your number? I’ll get him to call you. He might be a while.”
“No, thanks,” Seokjin says, and he wanders away, further into Yoongi’s apartment.
As apartments go, Yoongi’s is on the smaller side. Not the smallest, since he’s got a couple of rooms and space enough in the living room for a pull-out couch if he has anyone staying over, but that’s about it. Certainly no penthouse suite, that’s for sure. Yoongi trails behind Seokjin, keeping his distance. Seokjin looks- he looks curious.
“What are you looking for?” Yoongi asks, right as Seokjin leans down to peer closely at a patch of badly papered wall, and he jerks upright again.
“Nothing! Nothing,” Seokjin says, but his guilty complexion says otherwise, “This is just really bad interior design. There’s no colour anywhere and the feng shui is off.”
“Huh,” Yoongi says. The interior design suits him just fine. It’s not even design, not really, just a collection of things he’s gathered over the years. The paper’s been here since he moved in and he’s just never gotten around to asking his landlord about changing it. His cousin’s always nagging him about redecorating. In fact- “Are you a decorator? Did Jeongguk send you?”
“Jeongguk?” Seokjin pauses with a hand on his hip, and, okay, that wasn’t Yoongi’s smartest question ever. “Oh. Yes. Jeongguk sent me over. Met through a friend, you know. Says this place looks atrocious.”
“Ah.” That sounds about right. Yoongi’s going to kill Jeongguk. He’s going to crush him slowly and without mercy and then he’s going to call a necromancer and bring him back to life and do it all over again.
“I’m here to look at the apartment,” Seokjin gestures around vaguely and Yoongi nods, shuffling towards his bedroom door.
“Well, that’s great, but I have to go to work, you don’t need to stay,” Yoongi scrabbles behind himself for the door handle and swings it open, takes a step backwards into the sanctuary of his bedroom, “Just come back later, like next week, or never! You can tell Jeongguk I’ll do it myself that’s fine!”
“Jeongguk said he’ll pay for everything,” Seokjin says, just as Yoongi’s pulling the door shut.
Yoongi pauses, “Everything?”
“Everything,” Seokjin folds his arms, and it’s pretty clear from the way he’s rooted into the carpet that he’s not about to leave any time soon.
Shit, Yoongi knew Jeongguk had cash from his parents, but not this much. And, hey, he does really need to redecorate his apartment, right?
“Fine, let me get ready for work,” Yoongi says, and he shuts the door, leans back against it for a moment and lets himself think of the possibilities. New wallpaper, definitely. Get rid of the damp on the windowsill. Move the furniture around. Maybe get in some matching furniture? And what was that about feng shui?
While he gets dressed in his work uniform he keeps on thinking, scrubs dry shampoo through his hair and wipes at the worst of the marks on his shoes with his sleeve. Maybe this Seokjin can polish his shoes, too. The only shoe polish he’s ever owned has hardened to a solid coal-like chunk and it’s almost certainly been lost down the back of the kitchen sink.
When Yoongi comes back out of the room, not even five minutes later, Seokjin is perched on the edge of the couch, hands clasped in front of him innocently as he makes a show of surveying his surroundings.
“I’m going to work now,” Yoongi says, zipping up his jacket, “Uh. I’m taking the key, so if you’re staying here then I’m gonna have to lock you in. If that’s okay.” The idea of leaving a stranger in his apartment all day makes his skin crawl, but if it’s got to happen then, well, it’s got to happen.
Seokjin shrugs, “That’s fine. Have a nice day.”
“You too,” Yoongi immediately wonders why he said it back, and then he’s stepping out of his front door and locking it behind him. Across the hall, a door slams shut.
By now it’s almost nine o’clock, and Yoongi isn’t due at work until half past ten. Talking to Seokjin had seemed to take hours, and yet it’s only been twenty minutes since he met the guy. Already he feels tired, drained. But maybe he just woke up that way.
Taking the long route to work doesn’t waste much time when he only works a fifteen minute walk away. He thinks about calling his landlord but decides to leave it for later – he’s not even certain what he’s going to get done to his apartment, anyway. Better wait until he speaks to Seokjin. And Jeongguk, to thank him. Or kill him. He hasn’t decided yet.
At least if he’s early, he can swipe something from Seonmi’s reject bin of failed pastries. There’s never usually much in there, and there’s even less if he arrives after some of his other coworkers. Hoseok, especially. Yoongi could throttle Hoseok on an empty stomach.
Today the universe must be reading Yoongi’s thoughts, because he can see Hoseok’s uniquely coloured car in the cafe car park as he turns the corner. Bright yellow. If Yoongi talked to him more, he’d consider trying to convince him to take the huge fake eyelashes off the headlights, but better people have already tried. And failed.
The bell above the door rings as Yoongi walks in, and at the counter Hoseok whips around before the door can even swing shut.
“Yoongi!” Hoseok waves, smiling brightly, and Yoongi could have sworn he left the sun outside, “Did you have any more thoughts on the meal?”
“The meal?” Yoongi knows full well what Hoseok means.
“The staff meal! I made you another invite, since you lost the other one,” Hoseok says, “RSVP soon, I need to book a table! Seonmi’s going, and Hyunah, and a bunch of other people.”
“I’ll think about it,” Yoongi squeezes past him to the back area, snagging the invite on the way, “I might be busy that day.”
“Don’t think too hard!” Hoseok trills, and then the door swings shut, cutting him off. Today, Yoongi is working with Hoseok, Seonmi, and Hyunah. Hoseok in the front, Seonmi out the back, Hyunah smearing flour along her backside as she leans against the dirty counter, holding a croissant.
Yoongi ties an apron around his waist, and his shift begins.
“I’m home,” Yoongi says once he’s unlocked the door, bag of pastries in one hand and the invitation stuffed deep down into his coat pocket. Seokjin is sitting on the floor, one leg tucked underneath him and the other outstretched. Inside, the apartment has been very carefully ruined. The couch has been moved across the room, and all of his books and CDs and DVDs have been taken off the shelves and organised into what looks like some sort of cult circle around Yoongi’s laptop, which lies open in the centre of the room.
In minute increments, Seokjin turns his head to face the door, “Hello, person who doesn’t live here?” Oh boy, does he look guilty. Like coming home to a dog that’s pissed on the carpet because you left it alone for too long.
“What the fuck is this,” Yoongi says, finally coming inside and shutting the door behind him, leaving his stuff on the nearest cabinet, which has folders full of papers and documents stacked in front of it rather than inside it, where they should be.
“I didn’t go in your room,” Seokjin says quickly, scrambling to his feet and wincing as the leg that was under him is stiff to unbend, “I can explain, honestly! I’ll put all of this back.”
If this had happened at any other time, Yoongi is sure he would be so, so mad right now. Or scared, or both. But he’s just been at work for an eternity, so he can recognise that his fight or flight response isn’t kicking in like it should be. “You’d better,” he says eventually, and he flops down on the couch, grabs a pastry from the bag and bites into it. Apple Danish. Sugar sticks to his fingers.
While Yoongi watches, Seokjin stares around at the mess, saying nothing. He scoops some books into a pile, then puts them back on the floor. “They’re all out of order, anyway.”
“So?” Yoongi takes another bite. He doesn’t much care for desserts but Seonmi’s pastries are always incredible. Even if they’re too sweet and he’ll regret it soon.
“I was just, uh,” Seokjin picks the pile back up, “I was going to organise them. You were gone for a really long time.”
“Sure,” Yoongi says around a mouthful of soft apple chunks. As Seokjin moves away towards the bookshelf, Yoongi leans forwards and picks his laptop up off the floor with one hand, manoeuvring it into his lap. The screen is blank. He hits the power button a few times, presses and holds it in for a few seconds, but nothing happens.
“What did you need my laptop for?” Yoongi sets the laptop to the side and prays that his work has been autosaved. Not that he’d written much since the last time he’d saved. Being turned off for once might actually do it some good.
Seokjin continues to shelve the books, barely missing a beat, “Word processing.”
Yoongi chews his last bite into mush and it sits in his mouth while he finds the willpower to finish it. Here’s the taste of sweet regret. “Sure. How did you know the password?”
“Pass-” Seokjin starts, then stops himself, paused with a book halfway to its designated spot on the shelf, “Your friend told me.”
“Jeongguk?” Yoongi raises his eyebrows and brings his legs up onto the seat so that he can slouch down further. He shouldn’t let Jeongguk borrow his shit.
“Yeah, he’s very helpful,” Seokjin finishes his stack of books and reaches for the next.
“He really is.” If Yoongi sounds distracted it’s because he tries to text at the same time as talking. JK, he types painstakingly with one hand, There’s a weird guy in my house who says he knows you??? Sort out your shit??
Messaging Jeongguk is almost always a fruitless endeavour so Yoongi just puts his phone back in his pocket and joins Seokjin at the bookshelf. Most of the books look brand new – he hardly has time to read anymore. If he reads, it’s for inspiration. Or at least he reads them to try to be inspired. Mostly they just make him feel inadequate, so he puts them back on the shelf, half-read.
“You like science fiction?” Seokjin says after a while, skimming the back of some vintage classic that’s Namjoon’s given him forever ago on long-term loan to “broaden his world-building horizons”.
“Not that outdated shit,” Yoongi says, taking it out of Seokjin’s hands before he can accidentally rip off what’s left of the cover and placing it on the shelf, “Not that most sci-fi stuff’s gotten any better recently. It peaked, like, forty years ago, and it was bad back then. Not that I was alive in the seventies.”
“So you don’t like sci-fi.” Seokjin says, and Yoongi shrugs.
“I mean, I like the idea.”
Seokjin hums to himself, “I prefer fantasy books.”
Yoongi wracks his brains for something current that won’t make him sound like a nerd, “Like Harry Potter?”
Seokjin shrugs this time, carefully not making eye contact, “I guess he’s okay. His works can be a little on the nose sometimes but the world-building is, uh, interesting.”
Before Yoongi can respond (or even decipher whatever cryptic message Seokjin just gave him), his phone buzzes against his leg, and he rushes to read the message.
lol yikes is he hot????
Yoongi looks at Seokjin through the corner of his eye and wishes, not for the first time, that he’d put his glasses on this morning, I don’t know????? He’s tall????
Almost immediately after hitting send Yoongi gets another message, which is unusual for Jeongguk.
it might be my bf oops
Really? Jeongguk has a new boyfriend and didn’t bother to let Yoongi know? He doesn’t even bother to reply. “So, Seokjin,” he says, “How did you meet Jeongguk?”
“Through a friend,” Seokjin waves his hand around, “We just kind of ended up talking. I mentioned that I do decorating and he said he needed some decorating doing and it just kind of went from there.”
“That’s cute,” Yoongi says, taking his time with the books so that he doesn’t run out, “How long have you been going out for? Jeongguk doesn’t tell me things, he just sends me memes once a month.”
Seokjin whips around, almost losing his grip on his book, “G-going out?”
“Um,” Yoongi runs out of books and he folds his arms for lack of something better to do with his hands, “You’re not Jeongguk’s boyfriend, then.”
“No, I’m not!” Seokjin shakes his head and takes a step back, and he doesn’t sound angry but he does sound concerned, so maybe he’s not too big of an asshole.
Yoongi puts up his hands in surrender and moves onto the stack of CDs, “I must have thought you were someone else.”
“Y-yeah,” Seokjin grabs another pile of CDs, and he holds them carefully, like he’s not quite sure what they’ll do to him. He alphabetises them all the same, handling them a bit more naturally over time. Yoongi looks at him carefully, as carefully as he can with decidedly blurry vision.
Seokjin’s fashion choices are truly horrible, but Yoongi can’t really judge. If he can wear the same worn-out t-shirts for two weeks straight then Seokjin can wear double denim. Well, maybe he can’t. Surely he’s not going to decorate the house wearing that. Or maybe he’s wearing his bad clothes, just in case he gets them dirty.
“So, did you have any ideas about the apartment?” Yoongi asks.
“The apartment?” Seokjin looks at him quizzically, “Oh! Yes. Um. Wallpaper needs doing. The couch needed moving, but I did that. Um.”
Yoongi places the rest of his CD stack on the shelf in a pile, “You are a decorator, right?”
Seokjin shuffles on his feet, “Yeah! Why would I lie to you?”
Filled with sudden determination, Yoongi takes a step forwards, and then another, “Well, you don’t even know me. So you could definitely lie to me.” Oh no, now he’s closer Yoongi can see just how handsome Seokjin is. Before now, Seokjin’s face was organised into a well-balanced arrangement of fuzzy blobs. Up close, Seokjin’s face is, well, it’s perfect. Yoongi’s feels his determination waver.
“I wouldn’t!” Seokjin clutches what’s left of the CDs to his chest.
“Then what’s all of my shit doing on the floor?” Yoongi asks, pointing back at the mess in the middle of the room, and if he gets even closer then, yes, Seokjin smells great too.
“I was just looking-”
“Looking for what?” Yoongi says, and Seokjin sags a little under his glare.
Seokjin puts the CDs carefully on the floor next to him, “Fine, I’m not. I’m not a decorator. But don’t get mad!”
Yoongi interrupts, “Why shouldn’t I?”
Seokjin takes a step backwards, and then another, and now his back is up against the far wall, “Look, I got kicked out my house, okay? I got dumped! And I used to live here before I moved away, right, so I came back. It’s the only place I know.”
“How should I believe you?” Yoongi says, “Prove it, otherwise I’m kicking you out!”
“Um,” Seokjin says, “I don’t have anything on me?”
“Fucking search yourself online then, so I know you’re who you say you are,” Yoongi says. “You have to have twitter or facebook or something.”
“I don’t have to do that!” Seokjin says, voice rising, “If you were a good person you’d believe me! It’s not my fault your apartment is trashy!”
“Just-” Yoongi doesn’t like raising his voice, so he lowers it instead, sits back down on the couch. His feet are tired from standing up all day, “Do you have a phone or something? If you can prove you’re not a serial killer who’s escaped from jail or something then I’ll let you stay.”
At the back of the room, Seokjin slumps against the wall, “I don’t have a phone.”
“Like, you don’t have one? Or you left it somewhere?” Yoongi says, but he pulls his phone out of his pocket anyway. Truthfully, he wouldn’t even mind too much if Seokjin stole it. He does all his work of his laptop and he only texts Namjoon, and sometimes Jeongguk, but they both know where he lives and the only other thing he does on his phone is listen to music, so – okay, maybe he’d mind if Seokjin stole his phone. “Just use mine.”
Warily, Seokjin comes to sit down on the couch, perched on the edge as if he’s poised to run at any second. Yoongi unlocks his phone and he takes the phone with both hands, holds the edges like a burger and then turns it around so that he’s holding it in an approximation of how Yoongi handled it earlier. Both of them stare at the phone for a while, Yoongi slouched against the back of the couch, Seokjin poring over the screen in front of him. He presses a button on the side and the screen goes dark. He passes it back to Yoongi and buries his face in his hands.
“I don’t know how to use that,” Seokjin’s voice comes out muffled, and Yoongi lean closer to hear him better, “I don’t know what any of this is.”
“Are you okay?” Yoongi asks, and he genuinely means it. Seokjin seems nice enough, sure, but this guy is weird.
“No.” Seokjin whines.
“Where are you really from, Seokjin?” Yoongi asks, and he can feel the tension in the air, feel his heartbeat picking up.
Seokjin keeps his head in his hands. “1988.”
Yoongi must have misheard him, “Like, the year?”
“Yeah,” Seokjin says softly, and he brings his face up a fraction, one eyes peeking up at him from under his fringe, “1988. This is my apartment, I live here.”
“What the fuck is your problem?” Yoongi says, and he might be a little mad now. Annoyed, maybe. But Seokjin is very handsome and he seems more than a little upset by now.
“What day is it?” Seokjin asks.
If nothing else, Yoongi can humour him, “It’s a Saturday.”
“March.” As if Seokjin couldn’t tell by the temperature, and how Yoongi’s apartment is stifling without air conditioning. This coming summer is set to be one of the hottest months on record, as if they don’t say that every year.
Seokjin raises his head fully now, looking Yoongi dead in the eye, and although he looks shaken he looks serious, too. “What year is it?”
For a second, Yoongi has to think. “It’s 2018.”
Seokjin’s head sinks back into his hands, “Fuck.”
Waking up on Sunday morning is much more pleasant than the day before, since Yoongi doesn’t work today. He gets to laze around in bed, snuggled up in the sheets, and he doesn’t have to think at all about the strange man on the futon in the living room.
That is, until there’s a knock on his bedroom door.
“Yoongi,” Seokjin’s disembodied voice disturbs Yoongi’s peaceful silence, “I found your driver’s license. Min Yoongi! I’m three months older than you.”
Silence again, but only for a few golden seconds.
“Thirty years and three months,” Seokjin corrects himself, “Are you waking up? We have a lot to do!”
“I’m sleeping,” Yoongi mumbles, and it doesn’t matter whether or not Seokjin hears him.
“You said you’d help me!” Seokjin says, and Yoongi vaguely recalls offering sympathy and maybe saying he wished he could help, “It’s time to get up!”
“’M getting up,” Yoongi drags himself out of bed, really regretting all of this. He should have left Seokjin outside. The door swings open before he can reach it, Seokjin standing there in all his badly-dressed glory.
“You’re taking too long,” Seokjin says. He’s still wearing double denim, since Yoongi hasn’t exactly offered anything else, but his hair is flatter today. Not completely flat, though – the pure energy radiating off him seems to be fighting gravity.
“Mm,” Yoongi says, and shuffles away to the bathroom. There’s no point in showering today if he’s just going to stay in, so he just brushes his teeth and comes back out. Seokjin is standing in the space between the bathroom and the bedroom door.
“I’m going to stand here until you’re ready,” Seokjin says.
“Your legs are going to get tired,” Yoongi says, and he disappears back into his room to get changed, shutting the door firmly behind him. Years ago, back when he moved in, he’d had blackout curtains installed to keep out the light. The room is pitch black, and he gets changed by feel, pulling on what he’d taken off the night before. Lazy day. He can’t dress worse than Seokjin, even if he tries.
When he opens the door again, Seokjin’s still waiting.
“I really mean it,” Seokjin says, arms crossed, and Yoongi wilts against the doorframe.
“Fine,” he sighs, “What do you want?” It’s admirable, really, that kind of willpower. Any time Yoongi really digs his feet in about something, it’s always about food, and it always irritates Namjoon, and he never gets his way. It’s Namjoon’s fault, for being so much younger. He has an unfair advantage.
“I have to go out,” Seokjin says, “I need to figure out how to get home.”
Yoongi waves his hand dismissively towards the door, “Go on, then. I’m not stopping you.”
Slumping his shoulders, Seokjin frowns, “Yoongi. I haven’t been here in thirty years. Times have changed, Yoongi. You’re really expecting me to go out there by myself? In my condition?”
Although it tugs at his heartstrings, Yoongi stays resolute, “Yes, I am.”
Outside, a lorry rumbles past the window. Even at this time of year, town is busy. Most of the locals stay indoors most of the day, making the most of the air-conditioning in their homes and their jobs, but the tourists – the tourists are insatiable. And stupid. If Yoongi sees one more sunburned foreign idiot in the café he’s going to be very, very disappointed.
Hoseok thinks it’s funny. Of course he does.
But Seokjin hasn’t been here since, what was it, 1988? Yoongi’s only lived here since university. But that’s longer ago than maybe he’d like to admit. Not thirty years, though. And Seokjin could do with some breakfast. So could Yoongi. Seokjin is watching him, eagle-eyed. Yoongi grabs his wallet off the bedroom floor where he left it yesterday and stuffs it into his pocket.
“Come on, let’s go,” Yoongi says, and he fishes his keys out of the fruit bowl that doesn’t actually contain any fruit. Seokjin strides up beside him, and they stop at the door.
“Please don’t wear that jacket,” Yoongi says, hand on the door handle, and Seokjin looks offended.
“I like this jacket.”
“It’s hideous,” Yoongi says, and Seokjin reluctantly wriggles out of it, tossing it over the back of the couch. Now he’s out of the jacket, there’s a hint of form to his body. Not much, nothing that a baggy white t-shirt can’t hide, but Yoongi is aware.
“Are you happy now?” Seokjin says, but he seems more embarrassed than anything.
“Very,” Yoongi says, and he ushers Seokjin out into the hallway so he can lock the door behind them. A door swings shut across the hall, the quiet click of the door louder than any slam could be. Seokjin keeps watch while Yoongi locks and double checks and triple checks the door, and they leave the building in silence.
Daylight suits Seokjin. Not that the apartment is particularly dark, but out here Seokjin is glowing. Rough around the edges, perhaps, but in a nice way. A way that looks deliberate.
“Tough week, hmm?” Yoongi croaks out, dimly aware that Seokjin can’t see the dark circles underneath his own eyes.
“Something like that.” Seokjin is seems more preoccupied with their surroundings than what Yoongi’s saying, but Yoongi catches him trying to sneak a glance in the reflection of a shop window anyway. Around them, everything seems normal, repetitive, the same thing Yoongi sees six days a week on his way to work. But Seokjin is mesmerised.
“I remember the bike shop,” Seokjin says quietly, an almost imperceptible nod sent in the direction of the family bike shop across the street, “I know someone who works there.”
“Better avoid it, then,” Yoongi says, which earns him a dirty look.
“You don’t have to tell me,” Seokjin says, and he’s not mad – instead he casts his gaze around for something more familiar. “The beauty parlour is new, that’s nice. And the convenience store! They’re great for value.”
“Not so much, now,” Yoongi shrugs. He doesn’t ever shop properly, he just buys what he needs when he needs it. It’s more cost efficient, because often it’s easier to stay in the house without something than go out just to buy it.
“A gift shop? Really?” Seokjin says, and he throws a glance back at Yoongi. “In this town?”
Yoongi eyes up the gift shop, another gaudy overpriced touristy thing, “That’s what I said.” It might have been to Namjoon two years ago but, sure, he definitely said it.
A few more shops go by in peace before Seokjin decides it’s time to stop. “Oh. I know this bookshop.”
Narrowly avoiding crashing straight into him, Yoongi tries to pull Seokjin forwards, “No, you don’t.”
“I do!” Seokjin protests, ignoring Yoongi to step forwards and press his hands against the window. “I come here all the time. Do you think they’ve changed the layout? I sit by the counter and talk-”
“I’m sure you do,” Yoongi says, tugging on Seokjin’s arm (he’d rather grab the sleeve instead but it’s rolled right up to the shoulder), “We’ve got to go.”
“I’m coming back later,” Seokjin says, but he lets himself be dragged, shaking himself free of Yoongi’s grasp. Yoongi takes the lead now – the café is relatively new, just coming up on its first birthday, although by the way Seokjin’s trying to peer into every shop on the way past he’s not very likely to miss it. Yoongi steers him towards the entrance, weaving between tables set out onto the pavement.
Since the weather is good, most of the café’s patrons seem to be crowded onto the outdoor seating. There’s still enough people inside to be cramped though, and Yoongi is a step away from physically manoeuvring Seokjin around to keep him from gawking. Judging by his reaction, he must have been fairly isolated from the rest of modern society up until now. Luckily, he doesn’t stand out too much now that jacket’s off. Yoongi’s going to burn it as soon as he gets the chance. Although, maybe now he stands out for different, more attractive reasons.
Today, Hyunah is at the counter, a little moody at being separated from Seonmi if Yoongi knows her well enough, but she’s a sweet girl anyway. Which means – Yoongi is blessed – Hoseok isn’t here today. He’s not going to get asked about that invitation again.
It’s not like he has anything against Hoseok. He’s nice, he’s kind, he’s polite. He’s very forgiving and understanding and also knows the exact right amount to tear the shit out of someone. But he won’t shut up about the dinner party, and the dinner party is the problem. Not Hoseok.
“Go find somewhere to sit and I’ll order us something,” Yoongi says.
“Let me order,” Seokjin says, nudging Yoongi’s shoulder playfully, “I’m older than you.”
Yoongi shrugs. He’s had enough of trying to fight Seokjin on things; he may as well let Seokjin do what he wants and face the consequences. “Sure.”
The queue is long enough for Seokjin to read the board on the back wall three times over and decide he wants an iced coffee. “What do you want, Yoongi?”
Yoongi shakes his head, “I’m fine.”
For a second it looks like Seokjin might push him for an order, but he keeps quiet and pays attention to the queue. It’s starting to move forwards now, and they shuffle in tandem to keep up.
And then it’s Seokjin’s turn to order. Hyunah notices him first and smiles, a little flustered but otherwise cheerful (she’s much calmer under pressure than Yoongi), and she asks Seokjin what he’d like to order. Contrary to everything Yoongi’s learned in the last twenty-four hours, Seokjin seems shy. Then again, most people seem shy when they come to order from Hyunah.
“An, um. Iced coffee, please.”
“Small, medium, or large?” She asks, hitting buttons on the screen in front of her.
Seokjin shoots Yoongi a glance, who looks blankly back at him, “A medium? Please.”
“Okay,” Hyunah says, and she looks back up, “That’s five thousand won, please. Do you have a rewards card?”
“A what?” Seokjin says, cocking his head forwards, and Yoongi’s had the forethought to fish his colleague discount card out of his wallet and slide it across the counter around the till.
“Oh! Yoongi! Hi!” Hyunah says, finally noticing him, and Yoongi fully understands the compulsion to only focus on one customer at a time so he’s not very offended. Especially since that customer is Seokjin.
“It’s so expensive,” Seokjin hisses to Yoongi as Yoongi shoves a fistful of crumpled notes into his unsuspecting hand, and Seokjin passes them into Hyunah’s outstretched palm.
“It’s inflation,” Yoongi stretches upwards to whisper in Seokjin’s ear. Hyunah hands Seokjin his change, who passes it to Yoongi while Hyunah busies herself behind the counter. Seokjin is openly fascinated with the machinery back there, eyebrows raised, and he’s a minute away from hanging his mouth open. Yoongi stuffs the change into his pocket.
Hyunah hasn’t been working here very long. Six months, maybe a few more? She started working here after Jimin left, certainly. Even so, she’s a faster barista than Yoongi, who likes to take his time with orders, and a faster cashier than Hoseok, who likes to take his time with customers. And she’s nice, and she has a good sense of humour, and she’s never dated Yoongi, so she can stay.
Not that that’s why Jimin left. They’re on good terms. They just haven’t spoken in a while.
Seokjin’s drink is done, poured into a tall glass with whipped cream on top, and he balances it on the tray while Yoongi scopes out a table near the air conditioning unit. The air gets a little dry there, but it’s better than dealing with the sweat collecting on Yoongi’s upper lip.
“So,” Seokjin says, taking a sip of his iced coffee and smearing cream across his face in the process, “What are we doing here?”
“I want to book some time off work,” Yoongi watches Seokjin try to lick the cream off his own cheek and offers no help, even though he totally could, “You know. To help you out, like you wanted.”
“You work here?” Seokjin asks. He has a funny look on his face, one that Yoongi can’t quite read. It seems surprised, or amused, maybe, a quirk in the upturned corners of his mouth. Seokjin has a lot of expressions that Yoongi can’t read, and it unsettles him greatly.
“Yeah,” Yoongi says simply. There’s not much else to it. He works here for money, and then he goes home and writes for – well, he’s not quite sure. A few years ago he might have said for love, but that isn’t really the case. He just writes.
“I don’t have a job,” Seokjin says, peering into his drink as he takes another mouthful, and he doesn’t sound embarrassed at all. He’s just stating a fact.
“Is that why I paid for your drink?” Yoongi leans back in his chair, which goes back further than he thought but he’ll roll with it if Seokjin doesn’t notice. He does, but Yoongi forces himself not to care.
“You paid for my drink out of the kindness of your heart,” Seokjin says, and he hands the half-empty glass to Yoongi, who swills it around in the bottom of the cup. Watches the cream swirl. Seokjin’s right. He takes a sip, but it’s too cold and too sweet and it makes his teeth ache.
Before Yoongi can come up with a reasonably witty reply, he picks up on a familiar shriek.
“Yoongi!” Hoseok is behind him, a vulture ready to pick on the carcass that Yoongi has suddenly become, “Fancy seeing you here on your day off.”
“You know I can’t stay away,” Yoongi drawls, and it’s not as though he wanted to be here today but he didn’t exactly fight very hard.
“And you brought a friend,” Hoseok says, smiling at Seokjin who smiles back, “Or did he bring you?”
“This is Seokjin,” Yoongi doesn’t know why he’s introducing this almost-stranger to Hoseok but he tends to have that effect on people and he should be used to that by now, “He’s my, uh-” (What is Seokjin to Yoongi?) “-roommate.”
Seokjin waves, a brilliant movie star wave that might convince Hoseok to ask for his autograph based off sheer charisma alone. “Hi.”
“I’m Hoseok,” Hoseok says, and he puts a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder, not as firmly as he might have grasped someone else but firmly enough for Yoongi to know what’s up, “Do you mind if I borrow your roommate? I need to talk about work things for a minute.”
“That’s actually why I’m here,” Yoongi says, stomach sinking as Hoseok keeps on smiling at him, and he pulls out the last of his change to give to Seokjin, “Buy yourself some breakfast while you wait, if you want.”
“Thanks,” Seokjin says, pocketing the cash, “Have fun.”
Yoongi gets out of his chair and worms his way past the table, follows Hoseok into the back office. It doesn’t take a genius to tell that Hoseok and Seokjin are a similar type of person. Yoongi very much doubts that even Namjoon, certified genius, would pick that up. But there’s a very soft, cheerful exterior to both of them that covers something much tougher. Yoongi isn’t jumping at the chance to excavate either of those interiors. He just wants – what does Yoongi want? He wants some time off from work, and he wants to see where this all goes. That’s it.
“What do you want to talk to me about?” Yoongi knows full well that Hoseok is nosy and this isn’t about work at all.
“Who’s Seokjin?” Hoseok doesn’t beat around the bush. He leans against the desk and it creaks under him. Hoseok’s not heavy, but it’s not a strong desk.
“He’s my roommate,” Yoongi says, sitting at the chair and scooting it towards the computer, “We met recently.” The less Yoongi says about Seokjin, the better. Maybe he can convince Hoseok that Seokjin isn’t on social media if he asks, but he’s got no answers to any questions. At least, no answers that he’s prepared to give.
“I’m just checking,” Hoseok says, “You know, since. You know. How recently is recently?”
Yoongi keeps his eyes on the computer monitor and not on Hoseok, sitting up on the desk now and swinging his legs. “I don’t know. A little while?”
“That’s nice,” Hoseok says, and he falls into that silence that’s awkward on purpose because he wants it to be filled. He wants Yoongi to spill all his gossip. It fuels him. It’s not going to work, it’s not going to work, it’s not going to-
“He’s just staying with me for a while, that’s all.”
“Does Namjoon know?” Hoseok asks, and the question is redundant because if Hoseok knows that then Namjoon will know as soon as he can get to his phone. Yoongi shakes his head. “You know he’d want to know. He does worry.”
Yoongi casts Hoseok a look, “Does he ever stop worrying?”
Hoseok laughs, loud and bright, “No, no he doesn’t.” All of a sudden, he’s sombre, more serious, “He does worry, though. I mean, with everything. I don’t really know what happened last year but I know it wasn’t good, so.”
That’s an understatement. “I’m really fine.” Despite how new the café is, the colleague computer system is outdated and all but useless. Yoongi sits back and waits for the page to load. With how old this is, even Seokjin could probably make sense of it.
“I’ll let Namjoon judge that,” Hoseok says.
“Tell him, then,” Yoongi says, and finally he’s onto the page where he can book off holiday. He opens the drop down menu and selects the whole of the upcoming week.
“I will,” Hoseok says, and he peers over Yoongi’s shoulder to look at the screen, “You could probably book more than that off. I swear you’ve never had a day off.”
That’s almost certainly true. “I’m good, thanks.” While he’s here, he may as well check his work emails. If he has any. He’s never had one before, but the system is bad enough to keep him from checking it often.
Hoseok starts humming a tune, and then breaks off, “He’s very handsome.”
“Who?” Yoongi knows exactly who.
“Your roommate. Seokjin,” Hoseok says, and then there’s that pause again. The keyboard clicks under Yoongi’s fingers, really jabbing them into the plastic to get any kind of response on the screen. This time, Hoseok breaks first. “It’s okay if you don’t want to get back out onto the dating scene and it’s fine if you don’t want to tell me about it, I get it-”
“He’s my boyfriend,” Yoongi says, the words coming out without the involvement of his brain. There’s an email sitting in his inbox, but it’s not loading no matter how many times he clicks on it. “I was waiting to tell Namjoon first, but I guess that works.”
“Oh,” Hoseok says, triumphant but a little bit sheepish, like the cat who got the cream but who was embarrassed about getting it, “That’s really good for you. Sorry for pushing you about it, though.”
“It’s fine,” Yoongi says, giving up on the email and shutting down the browser window, and it most definitely is not fine because now his brain is catching up to what he just said. Seokjin is gonna be pissed. Or maybe he’ll find it funny. Or maybe he won’t. Or maybe he could tell Hoseok that it was just a joke, a really bad one that isn’t very funny.
But Hoseok is giving him a very nice sincere look, and that feels good. Hoseok has that effect on people.
“I’m here for you if you need me,” Hoseok says, “If you want to talk about anything. But mostly I want the gossip.”
Despite the heavy feeling in Yoongi’s chest, he laughs. Hoseok laughs too, which is also nice.
“So you’re taking time off to spend with him..?” Hoseok prompts.
“Yeah,” Yoongi says, and – oh, wait, this works perfectly. Because instead of trying to avoid explaining how he’s spending time with Seokjin to figure out how to send him thirty years back into the past, now he can say he’s going on dates. And if Hoseok (or anyone else- Namjoon, Jeongguk, others) asks, he can say it’s his personal business. Which it is. “We’re just gonna do some stuff. Couple stuff. I haven’t had very much time to myself, huh.”
“You don’t have to explain yourself to me,” Hoseok says, still laughing, and he shoos Yoongi out of the back office. On the shop floor, Seokjin is sitting at their table with a mouth full of croissant, chewing thoughtfully. Once he spots Yoongi, he waves. Yoongi waves back, nervously, and a gust of wind blasts his face as Hoseok waves more enthusiastically. “Go see him. I’ll let you know when your holiday gets approved.”
“Thanks,” Yoongi says, and he means it. He makes his way to Seokjin and sits down, casting a quick glance around to check that Hoseok’s gone and Hyunah isn’t looking in their direction.
“How did that go?” Seokjin asks through half-chewed food, and apprehension settles in Yoongi’s stomach.
“I, ah, I told Hoseok we’re dating,” Yoongi says, and at least Seokjin finishes swallowing before his jaw drops, “Like, so it doesn’t look suspicious that we’re spending so much time together.”
After a few seconds of dumbfounded silence, Seokjin finds his words, “I can get myself around without your help, I just need pointing in the right direction. Why did you tell him that?”
“I know what I’m doing,” Yoongi huffs, settling back into his chair, “You just need to go along with it until you get to back home. And then I’ll say we broke up, or something. It’s not like you’re gonna see him again.”
“Yoongi…” Seokjin trails off, looking down at the flaky leftovers of his croissant that have scattered across the table and his jeans, “I can’t ask you to do that for me. What if you get fired now?”
“Fired?” Yoongi repeats, and a pit opens up in his chest, “Oh. Oh. No, don’t worry about that! I’ll be fine. It’s 2018. There’s laws about that.” He decides to skip over all the bullshit. If Seokjin wants to believe that the world has become a perfect utopia in the past thirty years, well, Yoongi isn’t going to be the one who tells him otherwise.
Across the table, Seokjin remains still, brain ticking over what Yoongi’s saying to him. “Oh. Okay. I guess that’s fine, then. If it’s okay with you?”
“Of course it’s okay with me, it was my idea,” Yoongi says, and someone taps him on the shoulder. Hoseok, again, as if he couldn’t have guessed. He’s waving a slip of paper in Seokjin’s direction.
“What’s this?” Seokjin asks, grabbing it and reading the front, and Yoongi can faintly make out the letters RSVP through the paper.
“We’re having a staff meal, and everyone gets a plus one,” Hoseok says, settling his hands on Yoongi’s shoulders as he sinks down into his seat, “You’re welcome to come!”
“As your plus one?” Seokjin asks, flipping the invitation over to check the back.
Hoseok cackles, “No, as Yoongi’s!”
“Hoseok, I think we’re going to be busy-” Yoongi starts to say, but Seokjin cuts him off.
“We’d love to go!” Seokjin says brightly, and Hoseok seems pleased because he finally leaves.
“Why did you say we’d go?” Yoongi says under his breath.
“It sounds fun!” Seokjin says, “And, as your boyfriend, I should encourage you to get out of the house more.”
“I get out of the house plenty.”
“I’ve seen what you’ve what you’ve done to my apartment,” Seokjin shakes his head, pocketing the invitation, “It needs some time away from you. Anyway, what’s so bad about a dinner?”
For someone so seemingly intent on getting Yoongi out of the house, Seokjin makes no effort to get him to leave for the first couple of days. While they wait for Yoongi’s holiday to be approved, Seokjin adjusts to Yoongi’s daily routine – wake up according to how much time he needs to get ready before a shift, go to work, come home from work, hole up in his room to write for hours, fall asleep past midnight and occasionally come out for food. Not meals, just snacks and bowls of cereal, empty bowls stacking up in the corners of his room.
Seokjin, meanwhile, acquaints himself with the internet. Missing the invention of the world wide web by a few years, the concept is unknown territory for him, and yet it makes so much sense. You want to know an answer to something, you type it into the search bar instead of looking it up in a book or phoning up the library. The internet is a book and a library at the same time. It’s also a directory. You want to know if the bookshop down the road is open? You type it in the search bar.
The bookshop down the road opens at nine, closes at five, has excellent service, friendly staff, and is busiest between one and three in the afternoon. Their coffee machine is substandard.
And then he looks up time travel, which takes up an afternoon of sifting through web pages that don’t make any coherent sense, or work logistically, and then. Then he searches his own name.
Nothing. Nothing relevant. There’s a scientific paper attributed to a Seokjin, but it’s a different Seokjin. There’s nothing about his disappearance, or about his school achievements, or his career, or-
Nothing at all. As far as the internet is concerned, he doesn’t exist. He doesn’t have the heart or the courage to search for his family, not after this. So he discovers online gaming, instead. A world of bright lights and moving colours and people who call him bad names in chat boxes and microtransactions. After narrowly avoiding running up a 50,000 won bill, Yoongi starts blocking sites.
Shopping day rolls around, and (instead of ordering online like usual) Yoongi takes Seokjin to the supermarket. It’s a five minute drive away, which would be useful if Yoongi could drive and Seokjin’s driving license hadn’t expired twenty-eight years ago. So they walk for almost half an hour, and Seokjin is almost blown away.
“It’s huge,” he says, standing under the air conditioning in the entryway and looking down the rows and rows and rows of aisles that stretch of forever. Yoongi snickers, but mostly to himself – he’s going to let Seokjin have this moment.
“Come on,” Yoongi says as they start getting dirty looks for blocking the doors, and he passes Seokjin the trolley while he double checks the list that just reads, ‘Cereal, meat, good flavour water, vegetable?’
Of course Seokjin is good with the trolley, because trolleys haven’t changed since the eighties even if every other thing has, and soon Seokjin is hanging off the handles as he speeds down the produce aisle, giddy. It warms Yoongi’s heart, it really does. He picks up a stalk of broccoli and tosses it into the end of the trolley as Seokjin screeches to a halt next to him.
“Is that all you’re getting?” Seokjin says, leaning over to take a first look at Yoongi’s list, and Yoongi gets the feeling he’s about to be scolded. “How do you feed yourself?”
“I do alright,” Yoongi says, stuffing the note in his pocket since he doesn’t really need it anyway.
“No wonder you’re so skinny,” Seokjin remarks, and he starts pulling things off the shelf and putting them into the trolley in some kind of order. “You’re going to get scurvy. And deficiencies.”
“I can’t pay for all of that,” Yoongi protests, slumped over the handles that were once full of such joy. Seokjin pauses, bag of apples in hand, and gives him a look that suggests he’s being sized up.
Seokjin puts the bag in the trolley on top of a selection of vegetables, “Can you keep a secret?”
“Am I not already doing that?” Yoongi asks, and Seokjin nods, and reaches for the canvas shopping bag he’s borrowed from Yoongi that’s slung over one shoulder. He beckons Yoongi closer. Inside, it’s mostly empty, apart from a small leather wallet that Seokjin wrestles open, still inside the bag.
It takes a second for Yoongi to fully register what’s inside the wallet. What’s in there are notes, wrapped around each other to the point of overflowing.
“Did you-” Yoongi chokes, “Did you steal that?” He looks up, and Seokjin is grinning sheepishly.
“It’s mine,” Seokjin says, stuffing the wallet back into his bag and swinging it onto his shoulder, “Min Yoongi, I’m going to buy you real food. Do you know how to cook real food?”
“Of course I can cook,” Yoongi says indignantly. He knows how to cook four different meals, and rice, and make cereal. And he’s never even set fire to his kitchen, unlike some people he knows. Suddenly he’s much more curious about Seokjin than he’s been so far. Time travel? That’s nothing – Seokjin might still be having him on. But he can’t fake the money in his wallet that’s all dated 1988 and before. Well- theoretically he can, but that just makes him all the more interesting. “I should ask you for rent.”
“I should ask you for rent,” Seokjin quips, and Yoongi begrudgingly lets him put an avocado in the trolley. “How long have you been living there? You owe me that much rent.”
Yoongi has been left in charge of the trolley now. He’s bad at steering it, and narrowly avoids running over a family of four as they head down to the bakery aisle.
“Do we need bread?” Seokjin asks, “There are so many different kinds of bread.”
“No, we can get them from work,” Yoongi says, urging Seokjin to keep going past the cakes and pastries until they find themselves looking at the medicine aisle. “You should probably buy, like. Shampoo.”
“I can keep using yours,” Seokjin shrugs, peering at a bottle with a picture of a mango on the front.
“You really can’t,” Yoongi says, and he points at a bottle on a row high above his head, “That’s what I use, though. And get toothpaste. And a toothbrush. Do you even have a toothbrush?”
“I’ve been using your toothbrush, too,” Seokjin grabs a honey-scented shampoo and conditioner set as Yoongi voices his disgust, “How do you reach this? Do you ask for help?”
“I’m not that much shorter than you,” Yoongi grumbles, but he knows that Seokjin isn’t listening, just smiling happily to himself. It must be nice.
“Do you need any medicine?” Seokjin makes a show of looking intensely at each box on the shelf, then turns back to look at Yoongi, “Can you go ask an assistant if they have anything that can fix your attitude?”
Yoongi groans and flops over the side of the trolley, but his heart’s not in it. He’s having a good time. He’s actually having a great time.
Seokjin is still speaking to him. “They have so much lube in the future. So many different kinds. This one is 25,000 won. 25,000 won just to get slippery. Can you believe that?”
“We’re not buying it,” Yoongi says, and he can feel how red his cheeks are going so he keeps his head resolutely down even while Seokjin laughs.
“Yoongi?” Calls a voice to his right that makes his blood freeze, right in the middle of the aisle in this supermarket where he’s having a good time, and the ground stays firmly solid instead of letting him clip through it like a badly rendered video game. He looks up, past Seokjin who’s hurrying to cram the unreasonably priced lube back on the shelf.
“Oh, Jimin,” Yoongi says weakly, “Hi. How are you?”
Jimin still looks good. Horribly, terribly good. He’s wearing a tank top that shows off all his arms. Jimin knows that looks good, right?
“I’m good,” Jimin says, tight smile on his cute face, “I’m just doing my shopping. I haven’t seen you in a while! How are you?”
“I’m-” Yoongi tries to think of a word that doesn’t allude to several months of sitting alone in his apartment on a Friday night with a bucket of ice cream and one of three outdated sitcoms he’s watched before, “-good. Really good. Also shopping. How’s, uh. How’s your new job going?”
“Really well!” Jimin beams, and he doesn’t seem to be about to expand on that thought.
“Oh, good! I’m, uh. Still at the café. So you know where I am.” Yoongi shuffles from foot to foot, “This is Seokjin.”
“Hi! I’m staying with Yoongi at the moment.” Seokjin says, head bobbing, and Jimin gives him a look. It’s polite, but it’s not exactly friendly, either. Just curious.
“He’s my, uh. We’re dating,” Yoongi says, and he grabs the trolley and Seokjin’s arm and starts to pull away. “We’re super busy today but it’s been good to see you again.”
“We should meet up sometime,” Jimin says, half a smile on his face, “It’s been too long.”
“I’ll text you,” Yoongi says, knowing that he certainly won’t, and Seokjin waves as Yoongi drags him away to the safety of the meat fridge, leaving Jimin standing where they left him. Now Jimin’s out of sight, Yoongi lets go of Seokjin’s arm, and collapses against the shelves beside him.
“That was weird,” Seokjin comments, looking forlornly back in the direction they’d just escaped from, “He seemed nice.”
“Yeah, he’s nice,” Yoongi can’t help but agree, and he grabs two vacuum sealed packs of the nice steak since Seokjin’s paying. “He’s really nice.”
“You’re friends?” Seokjin says, putting the packs back on the shelves and rummaging around for two more with a more promising shelf life, “Or you’re not friends anymore.”
“Yeah, we used to date.” Yoongi says, looking away at a group of rowdy teenagers hanging around the milk section. That one line doesn’t really cover it, but it’s everything that’s important now.
“Oh, that sucks,” Seokjin says, and he takes a breath, “Um. Do we need milk?”
“I guess,” Yoongi says, even though he hates milk. It gives him a stomach ache. Seokjin might want some, though.
“Why did you tell him we’re dating?” Seokjin asks, leading the trolley since Yoongi doesn’t seem to be inclined to move it himself anymore, “I get why you told the guy at the café, but it doesn’t really seem beneficial to tell everyone, right?”
“I don’t know,” Yoongi grumbles, “Seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“You’d better know what you’re doing,” Seokjin says, and the kids scatter as he shoos them aside to grab a bottle of milk, “Not that it really involves me, but you’re going to have a lot to explain to your friends if you keep going at this rate.”
“Good job I don’t have any friends,” Yoongi says, offhand, and Seokjin clicks his tongue.
“Don’t I know what that’s like,” Seokjin sighs, and Yoongi barely catches it but he does, and it takes him by surprise.
“You? Don’t have friends?” He says, incredulous, “You’re a god, Seokjin.”
“What does that mean?” Seokjin asks.
“You’re a handsome man,” Yoongi says, trying very hard to seem very impartial, but it’s true. Bad fashion and beginnings of a mullet aside, Seokjin is handsome. He’s come to terms with that now.
“Oh,” Seokjin looks taken aback, but even so he’s blushing a little, and he brings a hand up to self-consciously cover his face, “Thank you. You’re um. You’re good.”
Yoongi nods, “Yeah, I’m good.” He doesn’t have any shame. At least, he’s not willing to share that shame with Seokjin, who can ride down aisles on the back of a trolley but can’t take a compliment, apparently. Truthfully, though, Yoongi can’t believe that Seokjin wouldn’t have any friends. He’s handsome, sure, but in the last few days he’s been so friendly and cheerful and fun that Yoongi forgets he’s essentially squatting in his apartment with a terrible sense of humour and the world’s flimsiest excuse for not leaving. Yoongi’s not about to kick him out, though. He wants to see how this ends.
It’s not because he’s avoiding writing his novel. That’s not it.
Together, they get all the way to the tills without another incident, although Yoongi spots Jimin at the end of an aisle and grips Seokjin’s hand tightly, dragging him past the drinks aisle with a mental note to buy ‘good flavour water’ later in the week. Or not at all. Seokjin’s hand is warm in his, and it’s soft.
Seokjin pays with a handful of notes that the cashier doesn’t blink an eye at, despite Seokjin and Yoongi both worrying they somehow won’t be legal tender anymore, and then they’re done shopping. The trolley is harder to steer now, and Yoongi almost runs down two men as they squeeze out of the exit doors. Yoongi apologises as the taller man pulls his short, angry-looking counterpart out of the way. Seokjin slips an arm around Yoongi’s shoulders as Yoongi wrestles their trolley into the rest of the line.
“Are those two men watching us?” Seokjin murmurs in Yoongi’s ear, and the close proximity makes Yoongi’s heart beat a little faster. He looks around through the corner of his eye, and the men he almost ran over are facing in their direction but not looking directly at them as they walk through the car park.
“Maybe they just think we’re a cute couple,” Yoongi says, but he’s unsettled all the same. Usually he wouldn’t think twice about someone looking at him – he used to be more self-conscious, but he’s mostly past that now – but Seokjin’s concern is affecting him.
“Maybe,” Seokjin echoes, and they waste time checking pockets and bags of shopping until the men go safely past before they set off for home.
On the same day that Hoseok drops Yoongi a text to tell him his holiday leave has been approved by management, Namjoon calls. Yoongi’s been expecting this, although he’d hoped Namjoon would at least give him a little more time. He considers ignoring the call and letting it go to voicemail, but Namjoon’s feelings would be hurt. He’s soft like that.
“This better not be about the book,” Yoongi says, sprawled across the couch in the small patch of sun that comes through the windows in the mornings. Seokjin is eating cereal at the kitchen table and trying to look as though he isn’t eavesdropping.
“It’s about the book,” Namjoon confirms, and at least he has the decency to sound apologetic, “Do you have any good news for me, or should I hang up?”
“Same as ever, Joon,” Yoongi says, and he sighs loudly enough that he hopes Namjoon can hear him, “Can we talk about something else for once? How’s the weather where you are?”
“You could look out of the window and find out. I live two streets away,” Namjoon says, and he pauses awkwardly. “Look. Can you give me an estimate, please? I really want to get this published before the end of the summer.”
“Can’t we do a Christmas release? You know everyone buys people books they won’t read for Christmas.”
“Yoongi!” Namjoon says, and it’s fair of him to sound exasperated because Yoongi has been a nightmare throughout this whole process, “People buy big name books at Christmas. People buy good, interesting books for the summer. And your writing is good and interesting and I want it published.”
“You’re the only one.” Yoongi is still being a nightmare. He knows this; he’s aware.
“I am going to drop this book deal,” Namjoon threatens, but Yoongi is fully confident that he’s bluffing. They’ve been through this before. “That might be a good thing, actually. Then we can see each other for five minutes without you disappearing off into your cave to not write.”
“You’re funny,” Yoongi says, deadpan, and Namjoon sighs, crackling down the line. Yoongi can picture his face, all sad and disappointed. “Sorry.”
“Can you come down to the shop so we can work something out?” Namjoon asks, “Please?”
It’s not as if he’s got anything better to do today, “Sure. Now?”
“I was thinking maybe later, or tomorrow-”
“I’m getting my shoes on,” Yoongi says, and he hangs up the phone. His shoes are in the hallway, and he has to pass Seokjin to get to them.
“Who was that?” Seokjin asks as Yoongi walks by him, careful to not sound too interested.
“A friend,” Yoongi says. Keeping a part of him secret, a part of what he does and who he knows, seems important for some reason. Seokjin’s already seen his workplace, his colleagues, his ex, his apartment, too much skin when Yoongi forgets he has a guest and walks out of his room in just his underwear. He has to seem mysterious somehow.
Besides, Yoongi knows nothing about Seokjin except the year he was born. If Namjoon finds out he’s hiding an older man in his apartment, he’s toast.
“I thought you didn’t have friends,” Seokjin says through a mouthful of cereal.
“I have one friend,” Yoongi slips his shoes on and grabs a jacket, thinks about it, puts it back. “I’m going out for a bit.”
“Wait for me,” Seokjin says, spluttering milk across the table, and he practically inhales the last few spoons of cereal in a way that has Yoongi’s throat gagging in sympathy. Seokjin doesn’t seem to care, which makes it almost cool in a kind of gross way.
“I thought you were going to do your own thing today?” Yoongi says, hoping against hope that Seokjin will believe him or at least catch the tone of his voice and play along. He slaps at his pockets for his phone, which is there, and his keys, which aren’t. Today the fruit bowl houses a squishy pear and three oranges, but no keys. “Do you know where my keys are?”
“They’re in the right place,” Seokjin says, hopping off his stool and walking to the coat hooks in the hallway and pushing his horrible denim jacket aside to show Yoongi’s house keys, hanging on a hook.
“They go in the fruit bowl,” Yoongi can’t believe he’s having this conversation. He’s meant to be meeting Namjoon and he’s going to argue about correct key placement. “The coat hooks are for coats.”
“The fruit bowl is for fruit,” Seokjin says, snagging the keys off the hook and tossing them to Yoongi, who catches them in one hand.
“I don’t buy fruit,” Yoongi says.
Seokjin shrugs, “Well, I do. And you’re living in my apartment.”
“It’s my apartment now,” Yoongi mumbles, and he unlocks the front door to avoid continuing the conversation.
“It was mine first-” Seokjin says, and he’s cut off by Yoongi in the hallway, waving his hand to shut Seokjin up in time to hear a door click shut.
“Let’s go,” Yoongi hisses, taking Seokjin’s hand to drag him down the corridor at a medium waddling pace, “Seokjin, I think someone’s been watching us.” The elevator’s tight for space even when it’s empty, but they cram into it, Yoongi reaching around Seokjin to furiously jab at the button to close the door.
“Really?” Seokjin looks pale all of a sudden, “Do you think it’s the men from the car park?”
Yoongi shakes his head, watching the corridor intently as the doors rattle closed, “I don’t think so, I’ve never seen them before. Maybe we just have nosy neighbours.”
“Could be,” Seokjin says, frowning, and he lurches unsteadily as the elevator kicks into life, “This thing really hasn’t improved since the eighties, huh?”
“Don’t think so,” Yoongi grits his teeth, keeping a firm grip on the handrail until they stop at the ground floor and the doors wheeze open. “If anything, it’s probably just gotten worse.”
Between the apartment building and the bookshop, the colour comes back into Seokjin’s cheeks, and it takes until he’s pushing open the door to the shop for him to realise he never intended for Seokjin to come along.
“Can you wait outside, or something? Please?” Yoongi says, trying to block Seokjin from coming in at the same time as blocking Namjoon from seeing outside, wherever he is.
“I just want to look around,” Seokjin says, brushing Yoongi effortlessly to one side, and he doesn’t even know why he tries. If Seokjin wants to be found out so desperately, so be it. Seokjin disappears almost immediately in amongst the shelves, leaving Yoongi to face Namjoon alone.
If Seokjin can stand up to Yoongi, he could probably have helped Yoongi stand up to Namjoon. It’s too late, now. Behind the counter, Namjoon is pretending to be checking books instead of watching Yoongi. Today he’s wearing a flat cap and four different shades of brown that somehow all clash. It’s not one of his best outfits. He can do better.
“That was fast,” Namjoon says now that he knows he’s been spotted, “Usually you put off seeing me for at least three days after we talk.”
“That’s how flirting works though, right?” Yoongi ambles over to the counter and rests his arms amid the stacks of books, waiting for Namjoon to speak. He doesn’t. Okay. “I’m busy the rest of this week, that’s all.”
“Busy working?” Namjoon raises an eyebrow, “I’m sure the café doesn’t need you that badly.”
Despite himself, Yoongi prickles, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I mean,” Namjoon pauses, collects his thoughts, “I’m sure they’d rather give you time off instead of making you burn out. You know what I mean.”
“I guess,” Yoongi says, anything to keep them off the topic he’s here to discuss in the first place, “I did book some time off, actually.”
“Oh, really?” Namjoon brightens up, straightening up in his chair, “Are you going to finish your manuscript for me, then?”
“No,” Yoongi says, and he feels a twinge of regret when the dimples fall from Namjoon’s cheeks, “I’m going to, uh, do some research. I feel like it’s getting stale, you know? I needed some fresh perspectives on things.” Maybe he’s not really lying. After all, he’s never experienced time travel, and Seokjin claims that he has, so that’s already one fresh perspective. He can work that in somewhere, if he wants to be cliché.
“That could be helpful…” Namjoon says, a little wary, but he seems to buy it all the same. So many false starts and extended deadlines have passed that Namjoon must just be glad that he’s even pretending to make progress, which works for Yoongi.
“I think,” Yoongi says, hesitantly, because this isn’t a topic he’s been willing to discuss with Namjoon for a while, “Maybe it needs, I don’t know, a more personal storyline. Not like I’m going to push the science stuff to the background or anything, but I’m worried it won’t, you know, resonate with the audience.”
“You want a romantic storyline, don’t you,” Namjoon says, usually so diplomatic in these situations, but clearly he’s losing the will, “The thing you’d told me you’d sworn off.”
“It’s gonna be gay,” Yoongi says quickly, putting his hand out as if to physically stop Namjoon’s thought process in its tracks.
“You want to resonate with a sci-fi audience with a gay storyline,” Namjoon says, “I’m not telling you not to do it, I’m just saying you’re trying to do a lot if you want to stay, as you put it, under the radar.”
“I want to keep it in,” Yoongi says, “You can’t actively challenge homophobia in science fiction if you have no gay characters. Namjoon, do you think there are no gay science fiction fans? You’re disappointing me today. I really expected better from you.”
“Fine, you’ve got me there,” Namjoon throws up his hands in defeat, “I’m sure you’re grown up enough to handle yourself. But if this love interest is just another rehash of you-know-who like the last three have been-”
“He won’t be, I swear.”
Namjoon gaze slips to Seokjin, bending over to look at a book on the bottom shelf of the history section, “No. I see what this is. You’re not doing this to me. I’ve worked so hard on this book.”
“You mean I’ve worked hard,” Yoongi corrects him, and Namjoon shakes his head.
“You only have to work on the book. I have to work with you,” Namjoon says, lowering his voice, “You’re not basing the love interest of your upcoming bestselling world-record-breaking novel on your mullet-having rebound guy.”
“He’s not my rebound guy! He’s just helping me with research.”
“Eating ass doesn’t count as research, Yoongi.”
“Well, no, it doesn’t! Not when you already know-”
“If you’re supposed to write what you know then my next book will be a murder mystery, do you understand? Yoongi, I love you, I respect you, you’re my best friend, but I should have set boundaries while I had the chance.” Namjoon puts his head on one side and looks at Yoongi sternly. “I do trust you, though. If you think this is a good idea then use it. Maybe being more personal is what you need right now.”
“You mean, what the book needs.”
“I mean what I say and I say what I mean,” Namjoon says, “What are you going to do next?”
“I’m going to have a day to myself, I think,” Yoongi says, deciding to ignore whatever Namjoon’s trying to say, “I’ll make a plan tonight.”
“I can send you some documents and stuff, if you want,” Namjoon offers, “I’ve done research on all kinds of stuff. There’s this article on the predicted future of space travel if you’re running out of ideas-”
Yoongi cuts across him, half lost in a new thought, “Time travel. What do you know about that?”
Namjoon shrugs a shoulder, just one, “Not much, but I’m sure I can find something. Is that the direction you really want to go in?”
“I’m considering it,” Yoongi says, as Seokjin sidles up to him, stack of books in hand, “I have some ideas, I think.”
“Well, I trust you. You can only improve,” Namjoon says, finally doing his job as he takes the books from Seokjin and scans them through the register. “The Time Traveller’s Wife, huh?”
“I’m helping Yoongi with his work,” Seokjin says, taking the books as Namjoon puts them down and stuffing them into his bag, taking no notice as Namjoon frowns politely. He takes a crumpled wad of cash out of his wallet and Namjoon’s frown changes from displeased to confused, but he takes the money anyway.
“Good luck,” Namjoon says, and the worst part is that he genuinely means it in a kind, helpful way. Yoongi finds himself crossing his arms over his chest.
“We’re going now,” Yoongi says, snatching Seokjin’s hand as soon as the transaction is done, “I’ll see you around, Joon.”
“I hope you will,” Namjoon says, leaning forwards against the counter, reaching for a book by the till that’s too worn to be for sale.
“Thank you!” Seokjin calls, and then they’re out of the shop, bell jingling merrily above them.
“What now?” Yoongi says, still holding Seokjin’s hand. He’s really starting to get used to this, and it’s only been a week, and they haven’t even had to try hard to convince anyone they’re dating yet. He pulls his hand away. Seokjin isn’t Jimin; he doesn’t care, he doesn’t want what’s best for Yoongi, he has his own shit to do.
Beside them, the street is busy, people shoving past them on the narrow pavement to avoid stepping into the road. A van rattles past, ruffling Seokjin’s overgrown hair.
“I’m going to the library first,” Seokjin says, patting the bag full of newly bought books, “I want to brush up on my history before I make a fool of myself. You don’t have to come. Or you can, if you want.”
“I’ll come,” Yoongi says, “You might get lost.”
“I’m sure I won’t,” Seokjin’s says, but his eyes crinkle with a soft smile. It’s almost a laugh, which is somehow both embarrassing and disappointing. Seokjin has a good sense of humour, even if Yoongi would never admit it, and his laugh is contagious.
“To the library, then,” Seokjin says, and he slips his arm around Yoongi’s so gracefully he hardly notices, except he definitely does notice how strong Seokjin’s arm is against his noodle arm, which is just like Jimin-
“Let’s get the bus,” Yoongi says, “I don’t want to walk anywhere else today. Do you have your bus pass?”
Seokjin unhooks his arm to pat exaggeratedly at his pockets and look at Yoongi in mock horror, “Oh no, I must have left it in my other jeans. Let me just go back in time and get it.”
Yoongi clicks his tongue but he has to look away to hide his smile, “Fine, I’ll pick you one up. They do them at the convenience store, let’s go.” He speeds away, waddling ahead of Seokjin so he can’t see his expression. Unfortunately for Yoongi, Seokjin has long legs, and catches up to him almost immediately. Between them, Yoongi speeding up to overtake Seokjin and Seokjin walking faster to keep up with him, they arrive at the convenience store in no time at all.
Seokjin takes a look down the cramped aisles, “I want to get snacks.”
“Go on, then,” Yoongi says, “I’ll get you a pass.” He watches Seokjin wander away, scanning the shelves for something to eat. He could do with eating something too, but he’ll just take a bite or two of whatever Seokjin buys. Seokjin’s been living at his apartment rent-free, anyway, so he can make up for some of it with food. He turns away and heads over to the counter.
“Bus pass, please,” he says to the cashier, young and bright-eyed with a look that suggests he’s about to say something, but he keeps his mouth shut. He probably just wants to tell Yoongi he sounds rude.
“Here you go,” the cashier says in a voice much deeper than his face suggests, “Do you want money put on it?”
“Yes, please,” Yoongi says, “10,000 won, please.” Hopefully saying please enough times will make up for his rough tone of voice.
“Sure,” the cashier says, and he scans the card through the till, looking up every so often to look at Yoongi in a way that really strongly suggests suspicion. It’s beginning to worry him.
He’s about to say something when he catches sight of a familiar face across the store, and he curses his bad luck while food shopping recently.
“Yoongi!” Hoseok calls, unmistakable despite the distance, and Yoongi knows he can’t get away with turning away and pretending he hasn’t noticed because they’ve made eye contact and Hoseok is heading straight for him.
“Hey,” Yoongi says, handing money to the cashier who’s still looking at him in that weird suspicious way, “What are you doing here?”
“Just grabbing some stuff,” Hoseok says, putting his half-full basket into one hand to go in for a hug that he reconsiders and turns into a friendly arm-pat, “You?”
“Uh,” Yoongi says, taking the bus pass and waving it, “Getting a bus pass for Seokjin. He, uh, he lost his.”
“Oh, that’s so cute! Where is he today?” Hoseok asks.
“I’m here!” Seokjin says from behind Yoongi, who jumps. He’d missed the footsteps coming up behind him, but he doesn’t miss Seokjin slinging his arms around his neck. “We’re going to the library. Together.”
“Well, have a nice day,” Hoseok seems to miss how uncomfortable Yoongi looks – or maybe he does notice, and that’s why he’s turning to go back to his shopping so quickly.
“You too,” Seokjin says, and Yoongi mumbles it after him. He puts his snacks down on the counter in front of the cashier, who’s gone bright red for some reason, and pays for his things.
“Your co-worker is really nice. Have I said that before? He’s always so friendly,” Seokjin says as the walk out of the store, breaking open a box of strawberry pocky.
“Always?” Yoongi says, taking two sticks out of the box when Seokjin offers them, “You’ve met him twice.”
“And he’s been nice every time,” Seokjin says, mouth full, “Which is more than I can say for you.”
“You’re not that nice,” Yoongi says, looking away from Seokjin and towards the road, and he grabs Seokjin’s arm, “The bus!”
“Bus?” Seokjin repeats, and he looks ahead to the end of the street where the last few people are getting on the bus, “Bus!”
“Run!” Yoongi says, breaking into a jog that’s swiftly overtaken by Seokjin’s sprint as he goes tearing down the road, clutching his bag in one hand and his pocky in the other. By the time Yoongi gets to the bus stop, wheezing, Seokjin is stalling for time so that Yoongi can give him his bus pass. He pays his fare in an oxygen-deprived blur, and follows Seokjin to a seat near the back. Settling in next to each other, Yoongi’s bony knees knock against Seokjin’s more substantial ones, and he presses their sides together to avoid blocking up the aisle. Seokjin’s face is red from running and Yoongi’s sure he looks the same, if not worse.
“I hate getting the bus,” Yoongi wheezes as it rattles to life, shaking them both, engine drowning out his voice.
“Really?” Seokjin says, “I find it peaceful.”
Yoongi scoffs, but he doubles over, light-headed, instead of replying. Seokjin laughs his squeaky laugh, and Yoongi continues struggling to breathe. They sit together like that for the next couple of stops, until Seokjin regains his composure and Yoongi can sit up properly again.
“Did you say you were writing a book earlier?” Seokjin says, out of nowhere as if it had been on his mind for a long time.
“Mm,” Yoongi hums, “Yeah. Trying to.”
“Really?” Seokjin looks at him, “That sounds time-consuming. What’s it about?”
Yoongi’s heart sinks, and he wracks his brain for a response that won’t make him cringe, “It’s about a man, in space.”
“And...?” Seokjin prompts, eyebrows raised.
Yoongi purses his lips, “That’s mostly it. Like, he lives a really boring life and his childhood friend dies of old age. So he’s depressed.”
Seokjin gives him a withering look, “He lives a boring life in space. Okay. I don’t know what’s happened in the last thirty years to make space boring, but sure.”
“No, it’s set in the distant future, everyone lives in space,” Yoongi says, rushing to defend his work, “It’s introspective.”
“It sounds boring,” Seokjin says, “Don’t look at me like that! You just said he lives a boring life and his best friend dies.”
“Shut up,” Yoongi whines, “I came up with it when I was seventeen. I’m changing some stuff around, anyway. I’d like to see you do better.”
“I’m not a writer,” Seokjin says.
“There we go, then,” Yoongi finds himself tense, and forces himself to relax back into his seat, “What do you even do?”
“I do what I want,” Seokjin says, “But I don’t want to do anything right now.”
“You’re just fucking rich, aren’t you?” Yoongi says, “Do you live with your parents?”
Seokjin has the decency to look embarrassed, “No, but they pay for the apartment.”
“And now I pay for it,” Yoongi huffs, “Life isn’t fair to people like me, Seokjin.”
“It’s not fair to anyone, Min Yoongi.”
“Well, it’s less fair for me,” Yoongi says, “Look, here’s our stop.” Seokjin leans across him to ring the bell before he has the chance, warm skin heavy on his shoulder, and he shuffles into the aisle. The bus, like every other bus in town, is old and rickety and nearly throws him off balance and backwards into Seokjin as it lurches to a stop, but that’s fine.
Together they file off the bus in amongst old ladies with trollies, and stand across the street from the library as the bus rattles away behind them.
“It looks like shit,” Seokjin comments.
“It got refurbished in, like, 2013,” Yoongi says, and he can vaguely recall what it looked like for the first year after the refurbishment. Clean concrete walls, no weird stains or climbing plants, the window above the door hadn’t been smashed in and covered in tape, and there were less edgy teenagers hanging around on the steps. As it is, Seokjin and Yoongi weave through them, and Seokjin pushes open the door.
At the front desk, a woman in her mid-thirties scrolls through a boxy, outdated computer, although she looks up in interest as Seokjin approaches the desk. Her smile seems genuine, something Yoongi isn’t quite used to from strangers, and he smiles back.
“Hi,” Seokjin says, shuffling one foot against the carpet that looks like wiry grass, “I’m doing a college project on history, and I wanted to know about some of the historical advancements in the last, uh, thirty years?”
“Sure thing,” the lady says politely, “Is there anything you’re looking for in particular?”
Seokjin looks around at Yoongi, worried smile plastered across his face, and Yoongi steps up to the desk. “He’s looking at how society has changed between the Olympic games we hosted in the eighties and the one we just had in the spring,” Yoongi says, and Seokjin nods along with him, “And I’m looking at world history in general. But I know what I’m looking for, I don’t need any help.”
“We hosted the Olympic games this year?” Seokjin mouths at Yoongi, who nods.
“So you’re historians?” The lady asks, and Seokjin laughs and scratches the back of his neck.
“Something like that.”
“Well, local history is on the second floor, in the back right corner, and world history is the section to its immediate left,” she says, and gives Yoongi a look, “But I’m sure you know that. There are also some interesting children’s books on history if you want to look at those for some starting points, and then tackle the thicker books for more in-depth research. If I think of any books in particular, I’ll let you know.”
“Thank you so much,” Seokjin says, and they say goodbye and move to the second floor. Upstairs is quieter than the entryway, with all the noise coming in from the street, and the silence is punctuated by the clicking of keyboards and the occasional throaty cough. “Computers,” Seokjin mutters, “I forgot we can research with those.”
“I can book us a computer if you want,” Yoongi says, and a man at a desk gives him a sharp look as he forgets to lower his voice.
Seokjin shakes his head, “No, don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll get along fine.”
“If you’re sure,” Yoongi says, and they separate to their own individual bookshelves. Researching history is practically boring compared to all the vague futuristic space facts he’s been compiling for his book over the past few years, and the thick volume he takes from the shelf brings a cloud of dust with it. Through the empty space, he spots Seokjin, head bent low over a thinner book with lots of pictures. He can’t make out the words from here – he should have worn his glasses, again.
In fact, the book he’s picked has been written in the faintest, smallest, most unreadable font ever imagined, and he can barely read it himself. The photos are grainy and blurred. Helping Seokjin isn’t worth this eye strain.
“Seokjin,” he whispers through the gap in the shelf, and Seokjin’s head whips around to face him, “I’m gonna have a look around for some science stuff.”
“Okay,” Seokjin says, going back to his book, and Yoongi watches him for a second before closing the gap. Bent like that, Seokjin’s neck is visible underneath that mop of excess hair, revealing a whole stretch of undiscovered skin. He looks soft and warm. The book settles into place between its peers, and Seokjin is blocked from view.
Between the peaceful serenity of his bedroom at home and the forced, unnatural quiet of the library, Yoongi would pick his room any day. He moves between the shelves, further and further away from the history section, down the stairs, and he ends up back at the front desk.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” The lady asks, once again friendly and attentive.
“Yeah,” Yoongi says, and he looks around helplessly, “No. I don’t know.”
“Not sure where to start?” She asks.
“You could try scaling it down a bit. What do you like? You don’t have to tell me. Start from there, and then move on. Maybe technology? Music? Politics? Start small.”
That’s reasonable. “Thanks,” Yoongi says, and he heads to the back of the first floor this time, instead, to the music section. There are CDs, tapes, a few audiobooks on display. What does Yoongi like? What would Seokjin like? What are the essential hits from the last thirty years?
What are the top bangers since the eighties? He texts to Jeongguk, who responds before Yoongi can even put his phone back into his pocket.
any song by iu. also beyoncé is queen
You’ll bother with an accented letter but you won’t use capitals, Yoongi replies, picking out a Beyoncé album, and then another, then putting the first one back on the shelf.
aesthetic??? respect???? sorry u dont know what those are asdjkasd, Jeongguk messages, and Yoongi’s phone buzzes a second later, are u looking for a fresh meme comp or something more boring
Don’t be a brat, Yoongi replies, and he puts his phone away. Jeongguk can simmer on that thought for a while. So far, from what he’s found littered in his browsing history in the past few days, Seokjin likes pretty generic eighties stuff. Dance music, synthwave, folkier stuff, rockier stuff. Kate Bush. Lots and lots of Kate Bush. He has a wide range of tastes, Yoongi’ll give him that.
He’ll like a lot of nineties music then, probably. Not trance music, though, which can choke. Western hip hop artists, hip hop inspired Korean artists – that’s what Yoongi likes, so he throws them in. Political themes don’t put him off. They’ll help catch Seokjin up to speed with the current political climate in a way that’s more helpful and enjoyable than textbooks. He pulls his phone out, responds to another text from Jeongguk, and makes a note of indie artists he’s listened to, of songs he’s heard on the radio that sum up a genre, a place in time, a sound he thinks Seokjin might enjoy. He’s missed a lot, after all. He throws a few idol groups in, too. Everything’s important, not just the parts he likes the most.
From music, he moves on to politics. So many things have changed, and yet so many things stay the same. Politics make him angry, though, so he only pulls a few notes from books and goes on his way. As he walks past the front desk on his way to the science section, the librarian at the front desk gives him a thumbs up.
Science is a broad subject, so he starts with medicine and works his way around. Anything groundbreaking, he writes down – cures for diseases, outbreaks of other diseases, advancements in treatments for mental illnesses. That stuff’s all important, but there’s less progression in those areas than he’d like.
For Seokjin, technology is something he’s already getting used to, so Yoongi doesn’t spend too much time on it. He brings a book on gaming, but he doesn’t really think it’ll be much use. The pictures are nice, at least.
By the time he gets back to the history section, his stomach is rumbling and Seokjin looks bored.
“Are we done?” Yoongi asks as Seokjin heaves himself off the floor where he’s been sitting, cross-legged, with a stack of books.
“I think so,” Seokjin says, “There’s just so much.”
Yoongi helps to pick up the books Seokjin can’t carry, “I can loan these out for you, I have a library card.” It’s been left unused for so long he’s not sure if it’s still valid, but it’s the thought that counts.
“Thanks,” Seokjin says, rubbing his eyes, leading Yoongi down the stairs, “My eyes hurt. I left my glasses behind.”
“You wear glasses?”
“I should,” Seokjin shrugs, and he puts his books down on the counter, Yoongi placing his own assortment of books and CDs next to them. “Can we take these?”
“Absolutely,” the librarian says, and she smiles at Yoongi while she stamps the card on the inside cover of each book. “The books have to be returned in three weeks, and the CDs and tapes have to be back by next week.”
“I’ll try and remember,” Yoongi mumbles as Seokjin slips the books into his already full bag.
“Oh,” the librarian says as they turn to leave, “Someone was looking for you earlier. A tall man, wearing a suit. Said he was a friend of yours, but he left in a hurry. Not sure why.” She goes back to looking at her computer.
“Thanks,” Yoongi says. A friend? The only person Yoongi knows who ever wears suits is Namjoon, and they’ve seen him already today, and he was wearing that brown abomination. He decides not to think about it right now – it’s warm outside and the breeze is refreshing after being stuck inside for so long.
“Thank you for helping me out,” Seokjin says, walking along the street with no particular destination in mind. Overhead, branches hang from the trees slotted into the pavement, starting to grow flowers that threaten sweetly to set off Yoongi’s allergies. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“I wanted to,” Yoongi says, and he finds himself meaning it. Despite being unnecessary work, it was sort of fun, and he’s excited to be able to show Seokjin all these things that are so important to him for the first time. “I’m hungry now, though.”
Seokjin stops in the street, sun shining above him, crowds parting to leave them a cramped island to stand in. “Lunch?”
Saturday comes all too quickly. It’s the day of the staff meal, and Yoongi is not excited. Seokjin is, however, and he’s making no effort to hide it. That’s why it’s Yoongi’s turn to get them both out of the house.
“Are you sure there’s nowhere you want to go?” Yoongi says for the third time, pacing up and down the corridor. They’ve spent the morning going through the CDs Yoongi picked up, and Seokjin seems to respond positively to Beyoncé, at least. Right now, Seokjin has a bowl of salad in one hand, munching through it with great enjoyment. It’s covered in mayonnaise. Yoongi has already complained about it.
“Maybe shopping,” Seokjin says, crunching through a slice of cucumber, “I don’t have anything to wear tonight.”
Yoongi stops in his tracks, “You don’t have anything to wear at all.” That’s true – slowly, Yoongi’s clothes have been disappearing from his wardrobe and turning up on Seokjin. Most of them are hand-me-downs from Namjoon anyway, and the oversized grey shirt Seokjin’s wearing is more than a little threadbare.
“Let’s go shopping, then,” Seokjin says, and it’s settled. Yoongi is distracted from the meal, and Seokjin gets clothes that fit and look like they’re from this century.
One bus ride away, and they’re browsing through the busy shopping district streets. Yoongi’s way out of his depth, both in terms of style and price range, but Seokjin seems right at home in amongst the flashy store fronts and designer brands.
“What’s hot right now?” Seokjin asks, peering at a six-figure watch through a window, and Yoongi averts his eyes. He’s not worthy of these price tags.
“Fucked if I know,” he says, plucking awkwardly at the hem of the shirt he grabbed out of a discount bin six years ago, “Just go in and see what they try and sell you.”
“Fair enough,” Seokjin says, and he makes a beeline for the door.
“I didn’t mean in here,” Yoongi says, but it’s too late. They’re inside the store now, in all its minimalist, capitalist glory. Bright lights glare down on the floor like spotlights, a far cry from the dimly lit high street shops for edgy teenagers he’s forced to shop in by Jeongguk. He feels compelled to lower his voice.
Seokjin, though, seems right in his element. Strange, for someone with such terrible fashion sense. But he gravitates to the professionally ripped jeans, to the vintage-style tailored suits, to the sunglasses which cost more than all the paycheques Yoongi’s had this year so far combined. Yoongi’s pretending to date a monster.
“You’re not thinking of buying any of this?” Yoongi asks, holding on to the last glimmer of hope he has.
“Mm,” Seokjin says, “I think I’d have to try it on, first. I don’t usually buy off the rack.” He thumbs through a selection of navy suits and walks away, uninterested. Off the rack? Who talks like that? A sales assistant is watching them out of the corner of her eye, Yoongi can clearly see the suspicious look on her face.
“I think we should go,” Yoongi says. Seokjin doesn’t seem to hear, or want to hear, what Yoongi has to say. He just keeps going, flicking through an assortment of patterned ties.
“Do you need any help?” The sales assistant is here, and she obviously doesn’t expect Seokjin to say yes. But because he’s Seokjin, he does.
“I’m going to a dinner tonight, and I’m looking for an outfit. What’s in fashion?” Seokjin says, and adds, “For formal wear, I mean.”
Yoongi butts in, slipping himself between Seokjin and the sales assistant who gives his unprofessionally ripped jeans a pointed look, “It’s smart casual. Actually. Um.”
“Smart casual,” she says politely, but without much feeling, “You can always pair a formal button-down shirt with jeans and smart shoes. And maybe a jacket.”
“I guess that doesn’t go out of style,” Seokjin says, nodding, and she points him in the direction of the shirts. They’re hung up in neat rows, and they all look, well, formal. Most of them are white. Or blue, for some reason.
Seokjin sucks the air in between his teeth, which Yoongi recognises as something he does, “Do you have anything a bit more fun?”
“Fun,” the sales assistant repeats. Seokjin nods emphatically, and she leads them away again to a different section of shirts. These ones could arguably be described as fun – they’re all different colours, for one thing, and they have patterns. A loud floral number catches Seokjin’s eyes and he’s immediately drawn to it, flicking through the rack for something in his size.
“Can we try these on, please?” He asks, and the assistant nods and points out the fitting room, “Yoongi, aren’t you going to look?”
Yoongi shakes his head, “No, thanks. I’ll just go through my wardrobe, I’ve already got a outfit in mind.”
“Yoongi,” Seokjin puts the shirt he’s holding back on the rail and takes a step closer to Yoongi, gazing at him with gentle eyes, “I’ve seen your wardrobe. It’s nasty. I need my boyfriend to look nice, otherwise I’ll never be invited out with you again.”
“You have a mullet,” Yoongi snaps, “Anyway, they’re not your friends, they’re mine. And my clothes aren’t that bad!”
“They’re not bad, they’re just old,” Seokjin says, “Please just find a shirt.”
“I really can’t,” Yoongi says weakly, and he has to struggle to hide the warm glow in his heart at the thought of Seokjin actually buying him one of these shirts. Spending outrageous amounts of money goes against his core principles, yes, but it’s not his money he’s spending.
“You really can,” Seokjin says, and he turns away to rifle through more shirts. This argument is over. Defeated, Yoongi wanders back to the boring shirt section, and picks through the various almost-identical shirts on display. They’re really not that boring – now that he’s closer, Yoongi can see that some have small flowers embroidered on them, or stripes. Not enough to warrant the price tag, but Seokjin’s paying, apparently. The problem now is that Yoongi doesn’t have a clue what would suit him.
“Go for something frilly,” Seokjin whispers in Yoongi’s ear, making him jump out of his skin.
“Fuck off,” Yoongi says, then lowers his voice when he spots a different assistant looking their way, “Don’t scare me like that.”
“Oh, you were scared?” Seokjin is grinning. “I didn’t notice.”
Yoongi jabs him in the ribs with his elbow and Seokjin sidesteps away gracefully. “Stop laughing at me and help me pick a shirt.”
“Fine, fine,” Seokjin says, and he reaches for a shirt by Yoongi’s head. It’s fairly plain, just a white shirt with a tiny blue flower over the heart.
“Isn’t that too boring for you?” Yoongi says, but he takes the shirt anyway. It’s soft, softer than anything Yoongi’s ever worn in his life, and he can’t stop touching it.
“Yes, but it suits you,” Seokjin says, and he laughs when Yoongi frowns at him, “I don’t mean that in a bad way! You just have plainer taste than I do.”
“Whatever,” Yoongi says, and he snags a shirt off the rail that looks his size, and then two more in different sizes just in case. At the fitting room, they split off into separate cubicles.
Each cubicle is roomy, covered in mirrors, and there’s a padded cube in the corner to sit on that Yoongi flings the shirt he’s wearing onto. Self-conscious amongst so many mirrors, Yoongi turns away to face the back of the door, which turns out to be a mirror as well. He can see himself for miles. There’s a bruise on the back of his right shoulder from where he fell into the kitchen counter last week. It’s green.
“Yoongi,” Seokjin knocks on Yoongi’s door, “Have you got your shirt on yet? I want to see.”
“Not yet,” Yoongi says, struggling to tug a half-buttoned shirt over his head. Eventually he wriggles through, and it falls nicely around his shoulders. Once the buttons are done up, he has to admit that this is a really, really nice shirt. He’s picked up the right size after all, and it’s so comfortable that he barely registers that he’s wearing clothes at all. Seokjin knocks on the door again.
“Hang on,” Yoongi grumbles, and he unlocks the door, swings it open.
Seokjin looks incredible. The floral shirt had been the right choice – black with big, bright, rich coloured flowers. It screams eighties, but in a good kind of way. Almost tasteful. Seokjin hadn’t been as fortunate with Yoongi regarding the fit, and although the shirt shows off his skinny waist, the buttons are struggling to contain his chest and shoulders almost as much as Yoongi’s struggling to ignore them.
“Looks great,” Yoongi says, “Looks really good. Suits you. Are you getting that one?”
“Maybe the next size up,” Seokjin moves his arms back and the top few buttons threaten to just burst off, “I don’t think I’d be able to move in this one. I just wanted your thoughts on the style.”
“It’s really nice,” Yoongi says, and he means it, he means it a lot, “It’s very you.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Seokjin says, “Your shirt is nice, too.”
Yoongi can feel his face heating up, if it wasn’t doing that already, and he wills the colour of his cheeks to go back to a less obvious colour, “Thank you.” He steps back into the cubicle and pulls the door to. “I’m getting changed now.”
“Okay,” Seokjin says, and Yoongi can hear him shutting his own door. He really had looked good. Yoongi’s not nearly as fashion conscious as, say, Jeongguk, but he’s got the feeling that Seokjin could fit in well with more current fashion trends if he tried. He pulls his shirt back over his head and tries to arrange it on the hanger, leaving it at an angle he can’t quite seem to fix. After just one wear, it’s creased, and he just knows he’s going to spend hours ironing. Yoongi’s wardrobe is specifically purchased to minimise ironing. But it’s a nice shirt, and Seokjin is paying.
Once he’s dressed, Yoongi slips out of the dressing room and sits on one of the seats in the middle of the room, waiting for Seokjin. He must have snuck some other clothes in, with the amount of time that’s he’s taking to try everything on, but he comes out just as Yoongi’s starting to worry that he’d already left.
“Are you ready to go?” Seokjin asks, and Yoongi gets to his feet. Last time Yoongi had gone shopping with someone, it had been with Namjoon, who’d coerced him into taking artsy shots of him in every outfit he’d tried. That was two years ago. In comparison, shopping with Seokjin appears to be a walk in the park, even if he does drag Yoongi out of his comfort zone.
At the counter, Seokjin unloads everything he’s been carrying – his shirt, Yoongi’s shirt, another shirt, something lacy that Yoongi doesn’t get a good look at, and a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses. As soon as he’s handed over his cash to an overwhelmed looking cashier, Seokjin balances the sunglasses on top of his head, pushing his fringe away from his face.
“What do you think?” He asks, gesturing upwards.
“I think they’d look better on your face,” Yoongi says, but he’s not above admitting to himself that they’re cute, even if they’re ridiculously expensive and unnecessary, just like everything Seokjin’s bought. While they finally leave the building, Yoongi supresses the urge to return everything for a full refund. Maybe he’ll keep the tags on his shirt until Seokjin leaves, and then he can use the cash to pay his rent.
“Where next?” Seokjin asks, pulling his sunglasses onto his nose so the lenses cast pink heart-shaped shadows over his face, “This is fun.”
If Yoongi knows anything by now, he knows that Seokjin, left to his own devices, will choose the path he finds most interesting, at any cost. Literally any cost. Yoongi wishes he’d counted those notes while he had the chance. Right now, though, he can sit through potential hours of being pressured into wearing nice expensive clothes and suffering from guilt, or he can find something interesting to divert Seokjin’s attention.
Trouble is, Yoongi doesn’t do anything interesting. He doesn’t leave the house.
“Have you been to an aquarium before?” Yoongi asks weakly.
“Of course I have,” Seokjin says.
“Not in thirty years, you haven’t,” Yoongi says, and he counts it as a win when Seokjin doesn’t complain. There’s one about twenty minutes away by bus, and if they go around slowly enough then they can go straight from there to home to the party. No more awkward shopping, and Seokjin can fulfil his need to spend money by buying their entry tickets.
At this rate, they’re about to spend the whole day waiting for and getting on buses, but that’s okay. Yoongi hasn’t been to an aquarium since he was a kid, and he has second-hand interest in sea life from Namjoon, who loves the beach. Since it’s a school day, it’s not as busy as it could be, and Seokjin pays the entry fee for both of them with only minimal complaining.
The reception area is ultra-modern, white and metallic and covered in high-definition screens. Giving Seokjin a quick sideways glance Yoongi can tell he’s awe-struck, even if he won’t say anything. While they push through a crowd of small children, Yoongi practically leads the way while Seokjin gapes at the décor, and he pretends not to notice.
“It’s been renovated recently,” Yoongi says, “I guess they were going for a futuristic look.”
“We did futuristic better thirty years ago,” Seokjin says, swiftly recovering himself, “You kids have no imagination.”
Yoongi laughs, and without thinking he reaches for Seokjin’s hand so that they won’t get separated in the crowd. By the time they reach the first room, dimly lit and enclosed by wall-sized tanks full of tiny tropical fish, the push of kids eases out a little and Seokjin pulls away to inspect a lazy blue fish the size of his palm.
In here, in this light, backdrop of screaming children notwithstanding, Seokjin looks beautiful. Serene. Yoongi watches him scour the fish tank and point out a lumpy brown fish drifting aimlessly on the floor of the tank. “That one’s you.”
“Thanks,” Yoongi says, and he wanders over to the panel with all the names of the fish written on it and pretends to read it, “Huh. That one’s called the kind and supportive fish. It says here that you should give him respect.”
“Sorry,” Seokjin says, and he bows low to the brown fish, “Please accept my apologies.”
“He’ll consider it,” Yoongi says, and he moves onto the next tank. To him, fish are all the same. They look nice or they look ugly but they all just swim and do nothing. In a way, he has to respect that lifestyle, which makes them almost interesting in a roundabout kind of way. Watching Seokjin is the real spectacle though, watching him go from tank to tank and make innocent or cutting remarks depending on how closely he thinks a certain fish resembles Yoongi, who compares him to a sea snail to make him stop.
It’s certainly refreshing. Going to an aquarium with Namjoon would absolutely result in an in-depth non-scientific ramble about how Namjoon thinks fish work, which is only interesting if he’s in the right mood, and it’s still a hell of a lot more insightful than going with Jeongguk. Yoongi can almost hear Jeongguk saying ‘same’ and ‘mood’ in regards to everything he sees and he’s one step away from texting him to tell him to pre-emptively stop doing that.
The real fun begins in the touch pool room. It’s brightly coloured and teeming with children, two things that Yoongi tends to avoid. But Seokjin makes a beeline for the emptiest looking pool, already rolling up his sleeves by the time Yoongi catches up with him.
“I paid to touch some fish and that’s what I’m going to do,” Seokjin says, taking one last withering look at Yoongi before he dunks his hand into the water, “You can stand there, or you can join me, but you can’t stop me.”
“I’m not going to stop you,” Yoongi says, and he shoves his sleeves up to his elbows, tucking his arms close to his chest so that they don’t fall down. The water is warmer than he’d expected, and it distorts the shape of his hands. There’s a starfish beneath his fingers but it’s much further away than it looks. When the tip of his finger meets it, he pulls away for a second, then goes back to stroke it with the back of his fingernail. It feels oddly like tough, leathery skin.
“Look,” Seokjin says, “You have two friends now.”
“Namjoon and a starfish?”
Seokjin brings his hand out of the pool and flicks water from his fingers at Yoongi, “Me and the starfish! No disrespect to Namjoon.”
“What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” Yoongi says, and he stops petting the starfish to flick water back at Seokjin, who shrieks. It’s no louder than any other child in the place, and no one looks around, but Yoongi feels self-conscious anyway. In the excitement, he’d almost forgotten how full the room is, how much he and Seokjin stand out in amongst the hordes of children and parents and grandparents. Especially Seokjin, with his unfashionable clothes and outdated hairstyle. Yoongi isn’t exactly up with the trends, but at least his hair is reasonable.
“Seokjin,” he says quietly, bringing them a step closer so he can be heard over the general clamour of the room, “Do you recognise the two men who just came in? Look towards the door, don’t be suspicious.”
Seokjin jerks his head up and whips around, and Yoongi fantasises about leaving him here, “The tall one? And the short one?”
“Yeah, the only other two adult men without children in this place.”
Seokjin brings his head back down, mouth next to Yoongi’s ear, “Yeah, I think so. Are they those two men from the car park the other day?”
“I think they might be,” Yoongi glances around for a better look, and he’s almost positive those are the men he’s seen the other day. Which isn’t impossible, but after the librarian had mentioned someone had been looking for them the other day-
“Seokjin, I think we should move on. They’re kinda suspicious, don’t you think?” Yoongi says, and he looks up one last time, making a brief moment of eye contact with the shorter man from across the room. Yes, it’s definitely him. He has the same dark eyebrows and short hair and angry expression as he had the day in the car park when Yoongi almost ran him over. A chill runs down his spine.
“Don’t you mean fishy?” Seokjin says, and Yoongi could genuinely smack him. “Maybe they’re here with their kids.” Seokjin doesn’t seem overly bothered, but he takes his hands out of the pool anyway, wiping his hands on his jeans instead of on the paper towels provided.
“I don’t want to stay and find out,” Yoongi says, and they hurry out into the next room, looking over his shoulder the whole time. It doesn’t take much to lose the shorter man as they rush through the room and into a tunnel through a room-size tank, although Yoongi can still make out the top of the taller man’s head if he stands on his tiptoes.
“Do you think they’re following us?” Yoongi asks, breathing heavily from trying to keep up with Seokjin’s longer strides, and he’s pushed to the side of the walkway by a stream of people.
“I mean, this is a one-way system,” Seokjin says, and he turns around to look at the tank, “So yeah, probably.”
“You know what I mean,” Yoongi says, but he drops the subject as a shark swims directly over his head. It’s long, grey, with black-tipped fins, and it circles around to swim back over him.
“Friend number three,” Seokjin says, and he takes Yoongi’s hand in a way that might be described as comforting. If anything, it makes his heart beat faster for a different reason. They walk together more slowly now, less inclined to crack jokes now in the weird tension they’re in, and Yoongi can’t help but watch behind them every so often to check for the two men from the car park. He thinks he spots them in the jellyfish room, but he can’t be sure it’s not his eyes playing tricks on him.
In the gift shop, Seokjin splashes out on a stuffed shark toy, which is admittedly the softest thing Yoongi’s ever felt and he has almost no shame in clutching it to his chest on their way out of the building. During the hour or so they’d been inside, the weather had gone from clear skies to cloudy, and it’s threatening to rain.
“That was fun,” Seokjin says as they go down the steps outside the entrance.
“Even if we maybe got stalked,” Yoongi says, and he has to admit that he doesn’t feel as nervous as maybe he would have done otherwise, with someone else. At least Seokjin has a sense of humour about that kind of thing, even if he’s worried.
“I told you the other day, they’re just jealous,” Seokjin says, and he waits for Yoongi at the bottom of the steps. “Are we catching the bus home now?”
“We sure are,” Yoongi says, and he stuffs the shark into one of his bags as they near the bus stop. Luckily for them the bus is only ten minutes away, and Yoongi spends the time on his phone, hooked up to the wifi from the shopping centre next door. He can sense Seokjin looking over his shoulder, but neither of them acknowledge it. It’s just a thing.
With the weather being so warm, some of the cherry blossoms are blooming already, and a petal falls onto Yoongi’s shoulder as the bus pulls up in front of them. Seokjin gets on first, and Yoongi sits next to him, balancing his bags on his lap so that he can use both hands for his phone. He has a message from Jeongguk, but it can stay unopened for a few more hours.
“I’m looking forward to the dinner tonight,” Seokjin says, “What are you going to eat?”
Yoongi looks up from his phone, and behind Seokjin rain is starting to hit the window, “I haven’t thought that far ahead?”
“I have,” Seokjin says, eyes glazing over wistfully, “It’s all I’ve been thinking about. I’m going to eat everything.”
“You can’t do that,” Yoongi says, fighting off a smile at Seokjin’s determination, “That’s impossible.”
“Anything’s possible when you put your mind to it,” Seokjin says, and his eyes go from being relaxed to being wide in shock.
“What’s the matter?” Yoongi asks, twisting to see whatever Seokjin’s looking at, but nothing unusual stands out to him.
“Hold on,” Seokjin says, and he squeezes past Yoongi to ring the bell, hurrying into the aisle and towards the front of the bus as it brakes.
“Seokjin,” Yoongi calls out, stumbling over bags, and he almost trips over himself trying to catch up with him, falling out onto the pavement. “What’s going on?”
They’ve stopped in front of what looks like a warehouse, packed in between a DIY store and a row of houses. It looks empty, possibly abandoned, and it’s the last place Yoongi would expect Seokjin to want to be. Rain hits the back of his neck, chilling even in the humid air.
“I know this place,” Seokjin says, inching closer to a dark window.
“Yeah, it’s right next to where you live,” Yoongi says, although he has to admit that he’s never really payed attention to this specific building before now, “Look, whatever it was thirty years ago, it’s not that now. Come on, let’s start walking home so we’re not late.”
“Just give me a second,” Seokjin says, waving him away, and he takes a step back and cranes his neck upwards to look at the sign. It’s faded, barely legible, but it seems to be important to Seokjin.
“I’ll go without you,” Yoongi says, but it’s an empty threat. He couldn’t leave Seokjin here. Seokjin is still looking at the sign. “Come on, let’s go.”
“Can you write down the phone number on that sign for me?” Seokjin says, turning to look at Yoongi at last, “On your phone?”
“I’ll just take a picture,” Yoongi says, eager to leave as soon as he can. He takes his phone out of his pocket and snaps a few photos, each one blurring a different part of the sign. Hopefully, they’ll be able to figure out what the phone number is when they get back home. For now, Yoongi just wants to leave. He tugs on Seokjin’s sleeve, who’s reluctant to move but eventually does anyway. It’ll only take fifteen minutes to walk from here and Yoongi knows the route well, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have to hurry to get back in time for the meal. And to avoid the rain.
“What’s so special about that place?” Yoongi asks, aware that this might be the first actual question he’s asked Seokjin about his past since they met.
“I think that’s the building I woke up in,” Seokjin says, and it’s the least vague answer Yoongi’s had so far, which is really saying something.
“Woke up in? In the future, you mean?”
“Yeah,” Seokjin tilts his head to one side, “I think so. It was dark when I woke up, and I went straight home from wherever it was. It felt like a dream at the time so I don’t remember much of it.”
This is new territory, and Yoongi’s almost afraid he’ll make Seokjin clam back up if he asks the wrong questions, or too many of them. But he’s known Seokjin for about a week now, and as complacent as he is he still wants some answers. “Do you not remember where you left from? Or why?”
“I remember why,” Seokjin says, and he doesn’t seem as though he’s going to elaborate more on that right now so Yoongi doesn’t risk asking, “I just don’t remember how. It’s all hazy.”
“Okay,” Yoongi says. Somehow, the lack of detail doesn’t make him trust Seokjin any less. At the end of the day, if Seokjin was going to murder Yoongi in his sleep and take his apartment, he would have done it by now. Maybe he was planning to murder Yoongi all along, but after seeing the way he lives he’s decided to take pity on him. That’s what Namjoon would say.
No, Namjoon’s too nice to say something like that. That’s what Jeongguk would say.
Besides, everyone has things they don’t especially want other people to know. If Yoongi started digging in Seokjin’s backstory then Seokjin would start digging into his, and that’s a can of worms he doesn’t need to break into. Best to keep going as he started, and let Seokjin do his own thing while he does his.
Another spot of rain hits Yoongi’s cheek, and he looks up to the sky, thick with dark clouds. “It’s raining.”
“I know,” Seokjin says, “Don’t let the shopping get wet.”
Together, they hurry home, trying to shield the bags to keep the rain off as much as possible. It mostly works, although one of the paper handles rips off one of Yoongi’s bags and he has to cradle it like a baby for the rest of the trip. By the time they get home, he’s exhausted, and the day isn’t even over yet.
When they get home, Yoongi has just enough time to jump in the shower and zone out for twenty minutes while he washes his hair before he needs to get changed, so that’s exactly what he does. The shower is warm and comforting, and the water pressure could be better but it’s reasonable and it gets the job done. The shower is his friend.
Seokjin, looking unrealistically handsome in his smart casual outfit, is not his friend. Seokjin is a demon sent to torment the unworthy. Yoongi catches him styling his hair in the mirror into a look that suggests he’s spent exactly the right amount of time doing it, which for Yoongi is no time at all. Yoongi wraps his oversized towel more snugly around himself and shuffles into his bedroom.
On the bed is the shirt Seokjin bought for him. It’s a little wrinkled still, but not enough that anyone would complain. He saves it for last, puts on the rest of his clothes first while he lets himself adjust to the temperature. For March, it’s warmer than usual – or is it early April now? Seokjin might know. He’s doing a better job at keeping track of time than Yoongi is.
While he sits around shirtless, Yoongi snags his phone and opens up the notes app. It’s full of different things. Message drafts, shopping lists, writing ideas, a dream journal he keeps sporadically so that he can prove to Namjoon that his recurring dreams about alien abduction are normal.
In the writing ideas section of his notes, the one that hasn’t been regularly updated in years, he writes down Time travel?? Give opportunities to do better
That’s all he writes, all he needs to write, otherwise he’ll get self-conscious. Then he slips on his shirt, taking a quick glance at his reflection in the window. He glances again, and wishes he had a mirror. In his mind’s eye he looks pretty good. He calls a taxi.
In the living room, Seokjin has finished styling his hair, and he’s finished getting changed too. He grabs his denim jacket just as the taxi driver calls to let Yoongi know he’s arrived, and as they squeeze out of the door together Seokjin slips a small box into Yoongi hands.
“What’s this?” Yoongi asks, and he finds out himself by opening it to reveal a watch. Metal chain strap, expensive-looking brand name. He doesn’t care much for brands themselves but this is- this is too much.
“It’s too much,” Yoongi says, thundering down the stairs of Seokjin, not trusting the elevator in this much of a hurry, “You didn’t have to buy me this!”
“I know!” Seokjin calls back, and it’s the last thing he says before he makes it onto the reception area and outside to the taxi. He opens the door and holds it for Yoongi, who slides in, Seokjin climbing in and the shutting the door after them both. Yoongi gives the restaurant address to the driver and they’re off.
In the fading light of the backseat, Yoongi fastens the watch around his left wrist and the streetlights outside glint off the metal.
“It’s really nice,” Yoongi says, “Thank you.”
“It’s for letting me back into my apartment,” Seokjin says, and he leaves it at that. Yoongi doesn’t want to protest too much about the expense anyway, because Seokjin might actually take it back.
It takes no time at all for them to pull up outside the restaurant, and this time Yoongi insists on paying for the taxi. Facing the door of the restaurant, though, Yoongi’s hit with a wave of apprehension.
“I’m not sure this was the best idea,” Yoongi says, and he chokes out of forced laugh, “Do you think Hoseok would be pissed if I sent you in by yourself?”
“Yes,” Seokjin says, tucking his arm firmly into Yoongi’s elbow so he has no means of escape, “And I would be, too. Get your shit together, Min Yoongi.”
“Getting it together,” Yoongi takes a deep breath, and they go venture into the restaurant. By now, it’s almost peak dinner time, and it’s starting to get crowded, but Yoongi’s put almost at ease by the smell of cooking food. He hasn’t eaten in too long and his need for good food outweighs his discomfort.
From a quiet corner, Hoseok’s head appears from over the back of a booth, and he hones in on Yoongi immediately. It’s uncanny. He waves, and Yoongi waves back, hand tucked close into his chest.
“Let’s go,” Seokjin says, and he waves too. They weave between the tables and get to the corner booth before Yoongi’s even processed that they’ve started walking. Their corner is cosy, and surprisingly empty of people, although they’ve managed to take up all the available space already.
“I’m so glad you could make it,” Hoseok says, standing up out of his chair to give Yoongi and Seokjin each a one-armed hug. He sits down, squeezing in next to Hyunah, who shuffles even closer to Seonmi, and almost ends up in her lap. Sitting on the other side of the booth are Seulgi, who hangs out with Hyunah, and Taemin, who occasionally hangs around with Seonmi, if Hyunah’s not free. He lets Seokjin sit down next to Seulgi first, and then he perches on the very end of the bench, opposite Hoseok who smiles encouragingly.
“It’s good to be here,” Yoongi says, and he’s not convinced that’s a lie. He’s nervous, yes, and uncomfortable, but he’s here to have a good time. And to eat.
“Who’s this?” Seulgi leans around Seokjin to ask Yoongi, and he gets the feeling she’s already completely aware of who Seokjin is.
“This is Seokjin, he’s my boyfriend,” Yoongi says, and it comes out so smoothly and naturally that he’s sure all of his method acting has paid off. His stomach pulls a somersault and he puts it down to nerves.
“Hi,” Seokjin says politely, “It’s nice to meet you.” They go around the table making pleasantries, and Yoongi has the nagging feeling that someone is missing. If everyone has a plus-one, then there should be eight people at the table, not seven.
“Hoseok,” Yoongi says just loud enough to get Hoseok’s attention over Seokjin’s well-rehearsed fake account of how they met (in a library, during high school, but they went to different schools of course, and then they stayed distant friends until recently, when they reconnected online and things just fell into place…), “Who did you bring?”
“My boyfriend,” Hoseok says, and the lack of detail leaves Yoongi both disappointed and suspicious, since Hoseok is loathe to ever leave out any detail about anyone’s personal life including his own. Hoseok just smiles, though, and asks the table if they’ve decided on drinks, which they haven’t.
“I’ve never been here before, so if anyone’s got any recommendations then go ahead,” Seokjin says, finally spreading his menu out in front of him, and Yoongi takes the opportunity to look through it himself. He’ll order whatever drink Seokjin is having.
“It’s one of those chain restaurants,” Seonmi says, “So if you’ve been to one then you’ve been to them all.”
“I’m, ah, from the country,” Seokjin says, “I’m don’t really know what’s popular.”
“Oh, I moved from the country!” Hoseok pipes up, “Where abouts?”
“Ah…” Seokjin says, and his eyes dart towards Yoongi, who’s frozen in a smile, “Gwangju?” Hoseok’s eyes light up and Yoongi coughs vigorously, and Seokjin adds, “But I moved to Daegu when I was young and I lost the accent. That’s how I met Yoongi, though. At school. In Daegu.”
“Ah, that’s a shame,” Hoseok says, and all of Yoongi’s muscles relax at once, “I’m from Gwangju, we might have met.”
“My friend is from Daegu,” Taemin says from the far end of the table, “Which school did you go to?”
“I’m sure they just want to order their food already,” Seonmi says, “I know that’s what I want to do.”
“Sorry,” Taemin says, and he grins sheepishly. While they have the chance, Seokjin and Yoongi bury their heads in a menu and let the conversation spark up around them. There are a couple of things Yoongi wants to try, but he’s pretty drawn to grilled meat so that’s what he’s going to go with. As he’s busy looking at the different options, someone slips into the space next to Hoseok.
“Sorry I’m late, I couldn’t find the entrance,” Namjoon says, and Yoongi’s head snaps up. “Did I miss anything?”
“Yoongi and Seokjin made it,” Hoseok says, wrapping his arm around Namjoon’s waist, and Namjoon does the same to him. This is new. This is very new. Even though he desperately wants to, Yoongi isn’t going to ask.
Before the conversation can start back up, a waitress arrives and takes down their orders, and then everyone is more focused on the thought of food than they are on Seokjin. That’s a relief. It’s one thing to spend a few minutes discussing possible answers to awkward questions, but it’s another thing to actually have to be asked them. Plus, most of these people only know Yoongi in relation to Jimin, and that’s not exactly the case anymore. They can think of Seokjin as a rebound guy if they want, but it’s been more than six months and Yoongi isn’t all hung up on him anymore. Maybe he’s a little hung up. Maybe he shouldn’t even think about getting involved with Seokjin at this point, though. Or ever.
“He’s had a long day,” Seokjin says, and Yoongi tunes in, suddenly aware he’s missed a big chunk of the conversation. “Haven’t you?”
“Hmm?” Yoongi says, and he realises he’s the person Seokjin’s referring to, “Oh. Yeah.”
“We went shopping earlier,” Seokjin says, “And Yoongi took me to the aquarium in Gangnam after lunch.” He’s twisting his words to make Yoongi look better, somehow.
“I love that aquarium,” Namjoon says fondly, “Did you have a good time?”
“I loved it, it’s really interesting,” Seokjin says, “Yoongi made friends with a starfish.”
“I’m not five,” Yoongi mumbles, and he has to look down to keep his smile hidden, but not before Hoseok notices and gives him a smile of his own. Someone else on the table is laughing and Yoongi’s face grows uncomfortably hot.
“So you two met at school? Do you have any embarrassing stories, Seokjin?” Hyunah leans across the table to ask, and Yoongi freezes up while Seokjin takes the initiative.
“Mm,” Seokjin says, and he looks away, pretending to think while really he’s just stalling for time, “Yoongi used to be the class president. You can’t tell now, but he looks like such a nerd in his school photos.”
Yoongi clicks his tongue and smacks Seokjin lightly on the arm, “Seokjinnie! You said you wouldn’t tell anyone.” He pouts for added effect, and from the positive atmosphere around them it seems to be working. This might not be as hard as he’d thought. After all, he just needs to act with Seokjin as he would have done with Jimin, without bringing back any of the memories.
Okay, that part might be hard.
He lays his hand on Seokjin’s arm and lets Seokjin do the talking, making up stories about school, and he interjects at the appropriate points. Seokjin is a better storyteller than he is – sure, Yoongi can build worlds where people live in outer space and reminisce, but can he make people give a shit? Seokjin can.
Once everyone grows bored, the attention shifts from them to different people around the table, and Yoongi’s less focused on what the other people are thinking of him and more on when the food is going to arrive. And Namjoon and Hoseok, which is- it’s a thing. Unless they’re not a thing, they’re just playing some prank on him where they pretend to date to get Yoongi back for not talking to them as much as should. Sure, he knows he doesn’t message very often, but this is too far. Unless it isn’t.
“Namjoon,” Yoongi says quietly while Seokjin’s occupied chatting to Seulgi about her holiday in the summer, “When did you guys get together? That’s really cool.”
“A couple of months back,” Namjoon says, and from the corner of his eye he can see Hoseok squeeze Namjoon’s hand on top of the table.
“Oh,” Yoongi says, “Cool. Were you going to tell me?” He doesn’t mean to sound passive aggressive, but that’s how it comes out, because he is kinda bitter. Namjoon has been his best friend for years, and he works with Hoseok almost every day.
“I mean, you never asked,” Namjoon says, and it’s such a Yoongi thing to say that he’s taken aback. But it’s fair- he deserves it. He really hasn’t spoken to either of them about something that’s not work in a long time and maybe that’s how Yoongi communicates but it’s not how Namjoon or Hoseok do it.
“Oh, uh,” Yoongi isn’t sure of what to say, “Sorry. I’m glad you’re happy, though.”
“We are,” Hoseok says, and he completely lacks the bitterness that Yoongi would have had in the same situation and that just makes things worse, in a way. In a lot of ways. Just like how he’s predicted, he’s in over his head.
“You didn’t tell me about Seokjin until the other day,” Namjoon points out.
Yoongi tightens his grip on Seokjin’s arm without realising, “Yeah, until you thought he was my rebound guy.”
Namjoon half smiles, and a dimple pops up on just one cheek, “Well, yeah. I guess we don’t know each other very well anymore.”
To Yoongi a while ago, even up until recently, he’d have taken that as a snub. But he’s determined to have a good time, even just to prove to Seokjin that he can, and at the end of the day he knows Namjoon better than that, “Yeah. We should meet up sometime and talk about things that aren’t work. I missed that.”
Namjoon’s dimples even out, “I missed that too.”
“Yoongi,” Seokjin says, butting in, “Tell Seonmi about your shirt.”
“This one?” Yoongi asks, picking at his sleeve, and Seokjin nods encouragingly, “Oh. Um. Seokjin bought it for me.”
“That’s right, I did,” Seokjin says.
“It’s nice,” Seonmi says, and she doesn’t look riveted but she does look as though she cares. Which is nice.
“We bought it today,” Yoongi says, and he’s unsure of where he’s going with this but he’s going to try and follow Seokjin’s lead, “I thought we were going to get kicked out of the store, honestly. The shop assistant was looking at Seokjin like she thought he was going to steal something.”
“I think she was looking at you,” Seokjin says, and he gives Yoongi the subtlest of winks, which makes Yoongi’s heart flutter and he turns his face away rather than acknowledge it.
“I’m not the one who looks like a country singer,” Yoongi says, and he ruffles the back of Seokjin’s hair. Someone is laughing, and Yoongi doesn’t want to know who. He’d rather not be the centre of attention, but Seokjin seems to be enjoying it, so he’ll try his best.
Before they can continue they conversation, food arrives, and their squabble is overshadowed by the prospect of eating. And drinking. Seokjin hasn’t had the memo that Yoongi can drink as much as he likes without feeling any effect, which is unfortunate for him, since he’s trying to match Yoongi’s pace. To Yoongi, it’s a disaster. To everyone else, it’s hilarious.
Plus, it keeps the attention off Yoongi, so he can’t complain. In fact, the louder and more giggly Seokjin gets, the more he wants to join in. Seokjin was right - this isn’t so bad. By the time all the plates are cleared away, though, Seokjin is suffering.
“We’d better go,” Yoongi says, crumbling under the weight of Seokjin leaning against him, “I need to get this one off to bed.”
“You’re not going so soon,” Hyunah says, and she looks genuinely upset, “You’ll have to come out with us again to make up for it.”
“I-” Yoongi hesitates, but he had fun tonight. His coworkers can be hard work but they’re his friends, and they’re funny and lively and kind, which is more than he can say for some people that he’s known. “Yeah, I’ll definitely come out again. Just let me know when. I’m gonna go out and call a taxi.”
“I’ll wait here, babe,” Seokjin says, and he flops off Yoongi and onto Seulgi, who shuffles around so that he falls onto Taemin instead, who doesn’t look entirely displeased. Mostly just embarrassed.
As Yoongi slips out of the room, he notices Hoseok following him, and as he leaves the restaurant to stand outside the front door he slows down to let Hoseok catch up. If anything, the rain is even heavier than it was before they started the meal, and Hoseok waits patiently by while Yoongi calls the taxi company.
“You know,” Hoseok says when Yoongi’s put the phone down, leaning against the wall where there’s shelter from the worst of the weather, “I used to think you were kind of a dick.”
“Thanks?” Yoongi says. Hoseok’s tone is light but he can’t help but take offense, even if he’s not going to show it. He’s had a genuinely enjoyable time this evening, and if someone’s going to spoil that it’s not going to be him. For once.
Hoseok chuckles quietly to himself, “Yeah. Like, you always ignored me at work and you don’t speak very much. I used to wonder why you even worked here. But I figured that’s just the way you are. If you were gonna be like that then that’s nothing to do with me.”
“I didn’t mean to seem like an asshole-”
“I get it, I know. But you’ve really improved in the past couple of weeks. That’s why I wanted you to come tonight. I mean, I would have invited you anyway, but if you were still a dick then I wouldn’t have replaced your invitation so many times.”
Yoongi is- he’s touched. He opens and closes his mouth a few times, unsure of what to say. “Thank you,” he settles for, “For not thinking I’m a dick anymore. Sorry I was shitty. You’re a really good friend and you don’t deserve that.”
Hoseok smiles and shakes his head, “You don’t have to flatter me. Flatter your boyfriend instead.”
Yoongi laughs and looks away, and hopes Hoseok can’t see the tips of his ears turn red in the dark.
“Speaking of Seokjin,” Hoseok says, “I’m really glad you two are together. I saw how well you got on tonight. I think he really brings out the best in you, and you like him a lot. Plus, he’s really cute and I like him, so. Keep him around.”
“I’ll try,” Yoongi says, and a part of his chest briefly caves in, hollowing out the smile on his face. He searches for his taxi intently all of a sudden, examining every car that comes near so that he doesn’t have to look Hoseok in the eye.
“What’s the matter?” Of course Hoseok knows something is wrong.
“Nothing,” Yoongi says, and then, because he’s not as sober as he usually is when he’s speaking to Hoseok, “I just. I really like and all, but. We’re not gonna last. You know? I know.”
“Oh,” Hoseok says, and he puts a gentle hand on Yoongi’s shoulder. “You don’t know that.”
“I wish I didn’t.” Yoongi isn’t meaning to say this. He’s known Seokjin for a week. But Hoseok is right, Hoseok has always been and always will be right. Even if they’re not dating, Seokjin is nice to be around. He’s good company. He’s funny, and strong-willed, and he’s really hot, which is a bonus. The apartment isn’t so empty when he’s there.
“You like him, though?”
“Yeah, I like him.”
“Then do what you can to make it work,” Hoseok says, “It’s no use acting as though the relationship’s already over. That’s just bad planning. Not every relationship is the same, Yoongi.”
“Why are you always so right?” Yoongi says, and he slumps against the wall, wet brick surely making marks against his nice new clothes.
“Because I’m sensible,” Hoseok says, and he’s right.
“Look,” Yoongi says, “I’m sorry I didn’t ask about your personal life. I didn’t want to intrude or anything.”
“You can say that you didn’t care,” Hoseok says, “But it’s what friends do. You’re welcome to have a two-sided conversation with me whenever you want.”
“Look, there’s your taxi. I’ll go get Seokjin for you, if you want.”
“Thank you,” Yoongi say again, and Hoseok disappears back into the restaurant. He’s only gone for a minute, and then Seokjin is coming out in his place, pulling his coat over his head to keep his hair dry. He runs towards Yoongi and hooks their arms together, dragging him towards the taxi.
“It’s raining!” Seokjin says, opening the car door.
“I know!” Yoongi says, and they pile into the back seats, door slamming shut behind them. Yoongi tells the driver where to go and they’re off, speeding through the night. Puddles splash up on the side of the pavement. The side of Seokjin’s face that’s closest to the window is illuminated by the street lights outside, washing him in neon colours. His eyes are closed, head tilted back against the headrest, throat exposed. Yoongi looks away, watches the night go past in a rush of light and colour. When the taxi pulls up outside their apartment, Yoongi pays and spends a considerable amount of time trying to drag Seokjin out of the car before he wakes up.
Seokjin allows himself to be pulled into the building and into the lift, and Yoongi props him up against the handrail while he presses the buttons. Washed out in the bright lights, Seokjin looks tired. Stressed. A lot like Yoongi does, probably. He doesn’t look at his own reflection very often.
“Seokjin,” Yoongi says gently, tucking his shoulder underneath Seokjin’s arm to keep him upright.
“Yoongichi,” Seokjin mumbles, eyes still firmly closed, “Please, don’t even think about talking to me unless I’m in bed.”
“Almost there,” Yoongi says, fighting to keep the tenderness out of his voice. The elevator jerks to a stop, and the doors grind for a second before opening. Seokjin wakes up enough to walk, but not enough that Yoongi can let go of him. Walking to their apartment is slow going but they make it eventually.
By the time they’re safely home, Seokjin is coming to again, a little sleepy but otherwise fine. “Take my shoes off,” he says, slumping down the wall and kicking his feet at Yoongi, “Can’t do laces.”
“Yes, you can,” Yoongi says, but he crouches down anyway to deal with the tight knots. “Why’d you tie them so tight?”
“Stop you from stealing them,” Seokjin says, and he smiles, eyes drooping shut. Someone knocks at the door, and Seokjin’s eyes fly open. “Don’t answer that. We’re not home.”
“I’m not going to,” Yoongi says, standing up and offering Seokjin a hand to pull himself up.
“Who the fuck knocks at this time of night?” Seokjin says, and he puts a protective hand on Yoongi’s stomach. Despite himself, Yoongi does actually feel safer with some kind of physical contact between them. Someone knocks again, louder this time.
“Go into the bedroom, I’ll see who it is,” Yoongi says, and Seokjin tightens his grip.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Alright,” Yoongi says just as there’s a third set of knocking at the door. Somewhere along the line, his hand’s slipped into Seokjin’s, and he squeezes his fingers tightly. With his other hand, he reaches for the door handle and yanks it open.
The person standing in the doorway is tall, around Seokjin’s height, and his face is full of worry and excitement all at the same time. He’s not scary, as such, but he’s a little too high-energy for what Yoongi’s feeling right now. His face is familiar – Yoongi’s seen him recently, but not recently enough to remember him, clearly.
“What do you want?” Yoongi asks, and Seokjin comes closer behind him, puts a hand on his shoulder.
“Um,” the kid says, and he looks past Yoongi in a way that makes his stomach twist, “Are you, um. Kim Seokjin?” That’s it. That voice, the voice too deep for his face. It’s the kid from the convenience store the other day.
“What?” Seokjin and Yoongi say at the same time, and Yoongi braces his hand on the door, ready to slam it shut if he has to. Seokjin looks pale, and woozy.
“Kim Seokjin,” the lanky boy says again with a sort of dreadful finality, and there’s no mistaking the three syllables falling out of his mouth as anything else, “Born in 1963. You starred in background roles in three movies leading up to your disappearance in 1988. No one’s heard anything about you since.”
Yoongi steps up, ready to tell this kid he’s got the wrong guy and send him packing from their doorstep, but Seokjin puts an unsteady hand out to stop him.
“Until now,” Seokjin breathes.
The kid nods. “Until now.” He has a binder clasped in one hand that he brings up between the three of them, once a baby blue but now covered in scrappy doodles and dog-eared stickers, “I wasn’t sure.”
“Come in,” Yoongi pulls them both inside, taking a sharp glance around the corridor to check no one’s watching. No one is. “This better not be some kind of joke.” He shuts the door and locks it, and turns around to see Seokjin sitting on the couch with the kid. There’s not enough space left for him, so he perches on the edge of the coffee table.
Once everyone is sitting down, the kid flips open the binder. Papers are stuffed into wallets, every other sentence highlighted, whether in the original word processing programme or done by hand afterwards, and there are little paper tabs keeping sections separate and coded. Anything handwritten is scrawled in a way that Yoongi can’t decipher from his position, reading upside-down. He probably wouldn’t be able to read it the right way up. And there are photographs. A grainy newspaper clipping slips out of a wallet and floats in sweeping arcs to land on the floor. Yoongi and the kid watch Seokjin scoop it up.
“This is from high school,” Seokjin says, distant, and he sounds more sober than he has all night, “I won an award, I think.”
“That was for a skiing tournament,” the kid says as he peers over Seokjin’s shoulder, with almost no hint of embarrassment or self-awareness (only the self-assuredness of someone who’s done their research). He holds his hand out for the clipping and Seokjin hands it to him, a fragile thing that could fall apart into dust if he handles it roughly. Seokjin looks like he might fall apart. Yoongi feels the same. The kid in the photo has a bad haircut and bad, nerdy glasses, and would look nothing like Seokjin if Yoongi didn’t know him well enough by now.
“Who are you?” Yoongi says, because Seokjin isn’t going to ask.
“I’m Taehyung,” the kid says, sitting up a little straighter and clutching the binder to his chest. Yoongi shakes his head, at a loss. The name doesn’t ring any bells. “I’m Jeongguk’s boyfriend.”
That rings a bell. “Jeongguk’s boyfriend? Jeongguk’s hot boyfriend?”
Taehyung relaxes into a smile, “Yeah, that’s me. He said he told you about me but I guess you must have forgotten.” Right, because the problem can’t lie with Jeongguk. Yoongi already knows that fact.
“I just wanted to let you know what I know,” Taehyung says, “And to see if I was right. I’m guessing I am. You’re not telling me I’m wrong.”
“You’re right,” Seokjin says, “But you have to promise not to tell anyone.”
“Who’s there to tell?” Taehyung says.
“You can’t tell Jeongguk,” Yoongi says, and Taehyung’s face falls.
“Anyway,” Taehyung says, “I thought you should know. Because if I can find you, and I’m just a kid who likes old movies, then someone who’s trying to find you specifically will most likely be able to. If you did time-travel, then someone’s probably looking for you.”
“The men from the car park,” Seokjin breathes, and Yoongi once again feels the chill of fear. “They must really be following us.”
“If not them, then someone,” Yoongi says. How did he not see this before? Time travel doesn’t- or shouldn’t- exist, so it does stand to reason that there would be someone out there who’s very keen to speak to him. Apart from his cousin’s nerdy boyfriend.
“Maybe you could change your appearance?” Taehyung suggests, “You do kinda stand out. You could cut your hair?”
Seokjin doesn’t look as offended as Yoongi would have anticipated, “Sure, I guess. Yoongi, where are your scissors?” Yoongi remembers that Seokjin’s been drinking tonight, and he puts on automatic hand on Seokjin’s knee to stop him from getting up and looking for them.
“I can do it!” Taehyung butts in, and Yoongi is secretly relieved they aren’t going to cut Seokjin’s hair in the kitchen at midnight, “I studied hairdressing for a while.”
“Really?” Seokjin asks, “What do you do now?”
“A bit of everything, really,” Taehyung says, and Yoongi’s secretly relieved that he didn’t say Jeongguk because he would have screamed, “But I still know how to cut hair.”
“Do you want to do it tonight?” Seokjin asks, and he really seems hyped about this. More hyped than Yoongi, anyway.
“Maybe you should do it tomorrow,” Yoongi says, “Or a different day. It’s not that urgent.”
“If there are people following us-” Seokjin doesn’t finish his sentence, but he doesn’t have to.
“We can do it tomorrow!” Taehyung volunteers, “I don’t have work or college or anything. It could be fun.”
“And you can get on with your boring book,” Seokjin says to Yoongi, and any relief he’d felt at Seokjin’s hair being kept intact is quickly vanquished. For a while, everyone sits in silence around the coffee table, Seokjin hunching further and further over as he gets more and more tired.
“I should go,” Taehyung says, sensing that now might not be the best time to be social, “I’ll leave all this stuff with you, though, I don’t really need it now. I’ll be over tomorrow afternoon sometime, if that’s okay?”
“That’s fine,” Yoongi says, at the same time as Seokjin says, “That would be great.”
Taehyung stands up, tidies up the papers on the coffee table into a neat pile (or as neat as they’re going to get), and he shows himself to the door. At the doorway, he turns back, looking over his shoulder, “It was nice to meet you, Seokjin. And Jeongguk’s cousin.”
“My name is Yoongi,” Yoongi says, and Taehyung laughs, and waves, and then he’s gone.
“Kids are the worst,” Yoongi says as the door clicks shut, and he locks it, double checks it. He stands by the doorway, hand on his keys. “I guess it’s hitting me now that you’re telling the truth about this whole time travel thing.”
“You thought I was lying?” Seokjin says, and there’s a definite slur in his speech that comes from alcohol and being tired, “And you still let me stay with you?”
It’s a valid question. The problem is that Yoongi can’t answer it. He’s not sure how. “I was bored, I guess.” When he gets no response from Seokjin he looks down to the couch where Seokjin’s slumped against the arm, fast asleep. “Oh. Let’s get you to bed.”
Seokjin’s awake enough to mumble, “Go away,” as Yoongi slips an arm underneath him and hauls him to his feet.
“Bedtime, Seokjin,” Yoongi says, and Seokjin is heavier than he looks, heavier than he seemed an hour ago, but he pulls him up anyway. It’s too much effort to relocate Seokjin to the armchair, pull out the sofa bed, and then put the covers onto it and put Seokjin into it, so he half-carries him to his own bed. As soon as Seokjin hits the mattress, he rolls over and tucks himself into the sheets. “Aren’t you going to brush your teeth?” Yoongi asks.
“Fuck off,” Seokjin says, and after that he’s unreachable. He looks peaceful, though. Content. Yoongi gets changed in the light coming in from the corridor and makes his own bed on the couch in the living room.
Waking up is a nightmare. Yoongi feels fine in regards to last night, but his back hurts after spending all night on the shitty sofa bed and he wakes up groggy. He’s not sure how Seokjin manages it. Speaking of Seokjin – he’s standing over Yoongi, holding out his phone.
“It beeped,” Seokjin says, dressed in an oversized hoodie he’s definitely found in Yoongi’s wardrobe, and his underwear, which Yoongi had seen him buy. He’s not sure how he’d cope if it was his. In all honesty, Seokjin looks like a mess. A hot mess.
Yoongi struggles for something polite to say, but comes up with, “Tell me why I care.” It’s not the best start, after his conversation with Hoseok yesterday, but morning Yoongi is not best Yoongi.
“Because I want to know what it says,” Seokjin waves the phone in Yoongi’s face, and he takes it, bright backlight shining directly into his eyes in spite. He unlocks the phone, and the message is- it’s conflicting.
“It’s no one,” Yoongi says, and he tosses his phone to the side and pulls the covers up over his head. They’re scratchy and uncomfortable but they keep out the light, and some noise, and Seokjin.
“Tell me,” Seokjin says, and the mattress dips as he flops down onto the bed, “Tell me tell me tell me-”
Yoongi sighs and turns his head to face Seokjin, covers swiped over his head, neck at an uncomfortable angle, “Fine. It’s my mom’s birthday next weekend. My brother texted me.”
“Oh, that’s great!” Seokjin leans forwards over the couch, and morning Seokjin apparently has no sense of privacy, “Is she having a party? Are we invited?”
“No.” Yoongi says, picking up his phone again, and Seokjin circles the couch to sit next to him.
“Come on. Are you sure?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Yoongi says. Next to him, Seokjin frowns, but he doesn’t push the issue. Not that he doesn’t want to – Yoongi can see him sending curious glances in his direction even if Seokjin thinks he’s being inconspicuous.
“Look, I haven’t been in contact with my family in a while, okay? I don’t want to go,” Yoongi says, “Don’t push it.”
Pulling away, Seokjin throws the curtains open, light falling all over Yoongi, “I won’t ask.”
Yoongi pulls the covers back over his head, “Thanks.” Under the covers, it’s hard to breathe, but it’s easier to think. Yoongi grabs his phone and unlocks it, reads the message over again. He’s not sure how he still has his brother’s number, or when exactly he got it. It must have been left over from when he left home. There are better things to think about. Like everything, anything else.
He locks his phone again. Sooner or later, Yoongi’s going to have to respond. The message is one in a line of many that’s he’s ignored, and despite feeling guilty, they’re going to stay that way. That kind of contact is a slippery slope, one that he’d prefer to have no part of.
One that he’d prefer Seokjin to have no part of, anyway. Seokjin’s backstory is exciting, otherworldly, interesting. Yoongi’s backstory is just sad, so. He’s not going to tell it.
Except to Namjoon, who knows everything. And Jimin, who doesn’t know him anymore.
After so long, the blankets become suffocating, and Yoongi has to come up for air. Seokjin is gone, nowhere to be found, although it sounds as though the shower is running. Yoongi has the perfect chance to transform himself into a fully-functioning human being in the half an hour Seokjin takes in the shower, so that’s what he attempts. Fresh clothes, deodorant, dry shampoo. New Yoongi. He should really wash his hair later. Or tomorrow.
And, because he doesn’t want to respond to his texts and he doesn’t want to stay in his room, where Seokjin will almost certainly end up dripping wet and getting changed, Yoongi camps out on the armchair in the front room with his laptop. It’s old and beat up and it lags but it’s trustworthy. Mostly. Yoongi closes several browser windows (Seokjin hasn’t quite gotten the hang of that yet, or he just chooses not to) and he opens up the document.
The document. It sits at eighty thousand words, and – Seokjin’s right – it’s boring. Garbage. Yoongi can see now what he couldn’t when he was seventeen. Maybe back then he had a reason to be sad, but now he’s looking for reasons to be happy. More importantly, though, he’s looking for reasons for his main character to be happy. He plugs in his headphones, turns on his writing playlist, and gets to work.
There’s a lot to sift through. A lot. It’s nowhere near done, though. Even in its original state, it was nothing close to being finished. Namjoon has too much faith and Yoongi has too little. He deletes phrases, rewrites them, deletes paragraphs, rewrites them. Some of it is pretentious and unnecessary and he cuts it out and wonders whether he should have left it in as part of the tone.
No, he decides after watching Seokjin wander from the bathroom to his bedroom in just a towel, leave it out.
Around him, time passes. Breakfast gets made, and eaten. The sun rises. His phone buzzes, and he passes it to Seokjin to play games, or whatever he does. The doorbell rings. It’s Taehyung, with a bag of miscellaneous hair products. Yoongi avoids watching the haircut on purpose – the first cut makes his heart ache. Watching clumps of wet hair fall to the floor brings a lump to his throat. Now he won’t have the best haircut in the room – that’s what he tells himself.
Seokjin’s neck looks bare from where he’s sitting, towel thrown over his back, turned away from Yoongi. Too bare. Taehyung stands between them as though he’s blocking the sun.
“I’m going to Taehyung’s apartment to bleach my hair,” Seokjin says, or something to that effect, and Yoongi nods.
“Don’t get murdered,” he says, and he puts his headphones back on as they leave. The writing zone is somehow both easier and harder to get into today. He’s trying to be more thoughtful about things like word placement, and imagery, but as he outlines fun adventures and meaningful, positive interaction, his writing becomes smoother. More fluid. More enjoyable.
And maybe that’s what Namjoon sees in his writing. Maybe that’s what was there, in the moments of unabashed joy that he’d written so long ago, followed immediately by scenes of depression and despair and scepticism and all that shit. He deletes some of them, leaves the rest in for character building.
Maybe that’s what Hoseok sees. Hope. The rare conversations at work where they’d clicked? And last night, when he’d taken part, when he’d felt included. Where he’d felt like they’d wanted to include him. Where he wanted to be included. Not quite friendship, but the potential for one.
Maybe (please, oh please) that’s what Seokjin sees. Could see. It’s certainly what Yoongi sees in him.
By the time Seokjin returns, hair a spectacular blonde, the sun is setting and Yoongi’s stomach and eyes hurt along with his head.
“What does you think?” Seokjin says, and he tilts his head forwards, fringe waving in front of his eyes. Taehyung’s done a good job of his hair, and it looks professional. Almost. And it’s stylish and not hideous and Yoongi can’t lie, he misses the shitty mullet. But it’s gone now, and in its place is a shorter style, cropped short at the back, long in the front. The opposite of everything Yoongi’s known for the past week and a half.
“It really suits you,” Yoongi says, “I like the colour.”
“Are you sure?” Seokjin says, and if Yoongi’s eyes weren’t burnt out from staring at his screen for too long, he’d swear Seokjin’s ears turn red.
“Yeah, it looks really nice.” Yoongi shuts his laptop and pushes it away, finally. He can’t remember the last time he’d spent so long writing without a break. “Are you hungry? I’m hungry.”
“I’m always hungry,” Seokjin says, and his posture relaxes, seemingly relieved to be discussing something other than his hair, “What do you have to eat?”
If nothing’s changed since the last time Yoongi looked, there’s nothing to eat, unless Seokjin likes rice and only rice for his meals. Still though, Yoongi has to try. “There’s rice?”
“Other rice,” Yoongi grimaces at Seokjin’s frown.
“What happened to the food we bought?” Seokjin says, sitting down on the couch so close to Yoongi that he can smell whatever Taehyung’s put on his hair.
“We ate it all,” Yoongi shrugs, “We could order in?”
“Mm,” Seokjin hums, and Yoongi’s heart effectively stops beating as Seokjin lays his head on Yoongi’s shoulder, “We could.”
“Did-” Yoongi wracks his brain for whatever he was going to say next, “Did you have a nice time?”
“Yeah, Taehyung’s really cool,” Seokjin says, “He showed me a bunch of internet videos. Like gaming channels and things. I don’t know, it was pretty interesting. I’m going back in a few days, I think. He’s got some video games I wanted to check out.”
Yoongi tries to lean back against Seokjin as subtly as possible, “Yeah.”
Through the window, the sun is sinking lower and lower into the sky, turning the room a warm burnt orange colour that glows against the side of Seokjin’s face. Even though he’s done nothing physical at all today, Yoongi feels exhausted. It must be from lack of sleep last night, and all the thinking he’s had to do today.
“I’ve been thinking,” Yoongi begins.
“That’s dangerous,” Seokjin cuts in.
“I’ve been thinking,” Yoongi repeats, firmer this time, “I want to go to my mum’s party. Not for her, really, but for my brother. And for me, I guess. And also, they live in the country, so if we’re being followed then they probably won’t find us, so if we go together then we’re more likely to be safe-”
“That sounds good,” Seokjin says, and gazes into Yoongi’s eyes in a way that’s both hard and soft at the same time, “Just do whatever you feel comfortable with.”
“I mean-” Yoongi avoids dislodging Seokjin while he waves his hands around, searching for the right words, “I’m not comfortable. But, if you, you know, if you wanted to come with me then I think I could be comfortable enough to go. I had a really good time at the dinner with you last night.”
“I had a good time, too,” Seokjin says, and Yoongi misses the warmth from Seokjin’s side as he sits up, “Of course I’ll go with you. I’ve had a good time with you since I got here.”
Yoongi can’t help it, he laughs. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” Seokjin settles back down, watching the last of the sunset turn the light from golden to deep blue, “Give yourself more credit. You’ve tried hard to make me feel welcome and I appreciate that.”
“Even if I’m an asshole?”
“You’re not,” Seokjin says adamantly, and with the way he says it Yoongi almost believes him, “If you were, then you wouldn’t be spending so much time with me, and you wouldn’t bother to include me or try to spend time with other people. Don’t you think?”
“You know I’m right,” Seokjin says and he shuts his eyes once again, “So. When do we leave?”
Yoongi’s phone won’t stop buzzing. He’s aware of it, he’s just busy. It’s only buzzed two or three times, but it’s enough to be aware of. He just needs to finish this chapter. He’s added in that time travel plot line and he’s going to ride the productive wave he woke up on as far as it will take him.
His phone buzzes again.
“Yoongi, your phone,” Seokjin says, from where he’s poring over a thick phonebook borrowed from Taehyung.
“I know,” Yoongi says, voice garbled from keeping his jaw clenched for too long while he writes. “I’ve got, like, three hundred words left to do here before I hit the next thousand.”
“Can I see who it is?” Seokjin asks, looking up, and Yoongi’s distracted enough by the movement to look over, and, oh, Seokjin is wearing his glasses. That’s nice, real nice. And look – the productive wave has broken against the shore. Yoongi picks up his phone.
“It’s Hoseok!” Yoongi hollers across the room, more loudly than he intended.
“Good for you!” Seokjin shouts back, and then he scoots out of his chair to come over and hang on the back of the couch to snoop in Yoongi’s messages, “That is good for you, though. What’s he saying?”
“Um,” Yoongi says, wishing he was wearing the glasses instead of Seokjin and also that Seokjin would stop breathing down his neck, “He wants to meet up. Today. For a double date. But you’re busy today, right?” As the words come out of his mouth, Yoongi knows they’re the wrong thing to say.
“Only as busy as you are,” Seokjin says, carefully slipping the phone out of Yoongi’s grip. The only reason he gets away with it is through the power of surprise – even Jeongguk had stopped trying to steal directly from him years ago. Seokjin’s lucky he’s confident and charismatic, two things Jeongguk lacks.
“I’m gonna write him a message from you,” Seokjin says, and Yoongi doesn’t attempt to protest in the slightest.
“At least let me read it before you send it,” Yoongi says, and he turns back to his laptop and his coffee that’s long since gone cold.
“You should be so lucky,” Seokjin says, and already he slams a reply out faster than Yoongi could ever hope to. He takes an extra few seconds to reread it, and then passes the phone back to Yoongi.
Would love to. Where and what time? Looking forward to seeing you…
“I’m going to rewrite this for you,” Yoongi says, hitting backspace, “Why do you try to put an ellipsis after every message? You’re going to freak him out.”
“It’s polite,” Seokjin huffs, “Let me see what you wrote.”
Yoongi passes the phone back, and Seokjin squints through Yoongi’s glasses. Yeah sure! Where and what time? Looking forward to seeing you guys
“That’s what I wrote,” Seokjin says, but he hits send anyway, and Yoongi barely feels as twinge of panic as he does so. It’s just Hoseok and Namjoon. He can deal with both of those people.
“You misuse punctuation,” Yoongi says, taking a sip of his cold coffee.
“You don’t use punctuation, I think that’s worse,” Seokjin says, and he’s stopped from going further by Yoongi phone buzzing again.
“The park in twenty minutes,” Yoongi says, “This guy really doesn’t fuck around.”
“I feel like I know that phrase in a different context,” Seokjin says, but he disappears to get dressed properly anyway. Yoongi sits for a few more seconds, overheated laptop burning into the sensitive skin on his thighs even through his jeans. Then he snaps it shut and pushes it to the side of the couch, half buried underneath a cushion.
While Seokjin’s been over Yoongi’s found himself subconsciously trying to dress more nicely, so he doesn’t have much getting ready to do. It’s half out of self-consciousness, half out of trying to prove a point. He doesn’t have a particularly good wardrobe to pick from though, and even in his best, least ripped clothes he’s found that Seokjin still has a more stylish presence. Fuck him. It’s only because the eighties are back in fashion. Yoongi’s put at a disadvantage, because he hadn’t even been born then.
Seokjin takes his time getting ready, so Yoongi tries to do something with his hair in the mirror. He’d washed it first thing this morning, and it’s dry and fluffy now, sticking up where it shouldn’t. He smooths it down with his hands, and watches in desperation as it springs back up.
“Are you ready?” Seokjin asks, coming out of Yoongi’s bedroom, hair done up in some fancy way Taehyung must have taught him how to do. Or maybe he’d got it from a youtube tutorial. He’s just discovered those. He’s very good.
“I guess,” Yoongi says, tugging at a loose strand of hair, and Seokjin reaches out to pat it down for him. Miraculously, it stays. As he unlocks the front door, Yoongi gives Seokjin the subtlest once-over he can manage. He’s wearing a long, baggy white shirt, and ripped jeans, and a pink cap, and he’s holding the heart sunglasses in the hand he hadn’t used to touch Yoongi’s hair.
“What are you doing?” Seokjin asks, slipping the glasses on.
“Making sure my boyfriend looks presentable,” Yoongi mumbles, yanking the door open, and Seokjin laughs.
“If I did that to you, you’d never leave the house.”
“Good thing I never leave anyway,” Yoongi says, passing Taehyung’s apartment and stepping into the elevator, which groans loudly. He’s not hurt, but he knows Seokjin’s right – Seokjin deserves a boyfriend who can actually dress well. A fake boyfriend. Or a real boyfriend.
Anyway, Yoongi’s not that bad at dressing himself. Seokjin is just tall.
“What do you think Hoseok has planned?” Seokjin asks, pressing the elevator buttons, and Yoongi shrugs.
“Probably, like, those workplace ice breakers you have to do.”
“I can’t imagine you doing one of those,” Seokjin shakes his head. The elevator grinds against something for a split second, and Yoongi suddenly finds himself more preoccupied with that than what Seokjin’s saying, so he just nods along until the doors open. “You know, doing all the introductions. I mean, I don’t even know your favourite colour.”
“I don’t know my favourite colour either, to be fair,” Yoongi says, hopping out of the elevator as soon as he’s able. The park isn’t too far away, only about five minutes by foot, although Yoongi hasn’t been there in a while. He passes through sometimes on his way to other places, but it’s rare. It could be nice to spend some time there.
Seokjin knows the way, or at least he seems to, and all Yoongi can do is follow him and hope the park hasn’t been relocated in the past thirty years. Relief washes over him as they meet the familiar metal gates. Through them, he can see plenty of people, mostly children, and a few people walking dogs, but no Hoseok and no Namjoon.
Over by the benches are two men in suits, and Yoongi can’t make out their features from here but alarm bells are ringing anyway. No, it can’t be the men from before – how would they know they were coming here?
“Do you want to wait at the gates?” Yoongi asks, peering through again, trying to catch a glimpse of either man’s face. Seokjin takes him gently by the arm.
“Let’s just go in,” Seokjin says, “We’re probably early.” That’s true – he hasn’t checked the time in a while. Seeing the words twenty minutes had pushed him into overdrive. “Is the duck pond still here?”
“Yeah,” Yoongi says, following Seokjin through the gates and waddling swiftly along next to him as Seokjin strides away, “It’s pretty cute. There’s usually an ice cream stand next to it.” Plus, the duck pond is in the opposite direction to the benches.
“Oh!” Seokjin says, whipping around, “Do you want to get an ice cream? I brought money.”
“Maybe later,” Yoongi says, “I don’t know what Namjoon and Hoseok want to do.”
“Speak of the devil,” Seokjin murmurs, looking off into the distance behind Yoongi, who turns around. Coming towards them are Hoseok and Namjoon, holding hands. Yoongi slips his hand down Seokjin’s arm until their hands meet, too.
“Hey!” Hoseok says as Namjoon waves next to him, “We were looking for you!”
“Are we late?” Yoongi asks, and Hoseok shakes his head.
“No, you’re right on time.” He slaps Seokjin happily on the arm, and Yoongi and Namjoon nod awkwardly at each other. Yoongi hasn’t seen Namjoon outside in so long he looks almost out of place in the sun, not surrounded by books. “What did you guys want to do today?”
“We were kind of thinking you guys had a plan,” Yoongi says, and he adds, “But it’s cool if you don’t.”
“Yeah, we just wanted to get out of the house,” Namjoon says, “The sun’s good. Photosynthesis.”
“Do you want to, uh,” Yoongi says, and he looks to Seokjin for support, who looks back at him blankly, “Do you want to walk around?”
“Sounds good!” Hoseok says, and the worst part is that Yoongi can tell he genuinely means it.
“Do you want to get ice cream?” Seokjin says, and Hoseok’s eyes sparkle.
“That sounds even better.”
By the time they get back to the apartment building, Yoongi’s feet are hurting so much he can barely walk. Seokjin is munching on a burger from the stand, topped with the extra onions that Yoongi didn’t want.
“Can you carry me?” Yoongi asks, hobbling next to Seokjin, clutching his arm for support, “You could. Do you work out? Don’t answer that; you do.”
“I’m not carrying you,” Seokjin says, stuffing he last bite of the burger into his mouth and hauling Yoongi the last few steps to the elevator, “You’re a big dramatic baby. How did I not see this before?”
“It’s part of my charm,” Yoongi says, hitting the button for their floor and collapsing against the handrail as the door shuts behind them.
“Sure,” Seokjin says, leaning against the opposite wall, “That was fun. I had a really good time today,”
“Of course you did,” Yoongi says, “That’s the Hoseok Effect.”
“I’m sure you’ve complained about him before,” Seokjin says, wincing as the elevator squeals.
“I do it out of love,” Yoongi says, but if he’s being honest with himself he’s not entirely sure why he’d ever complained about Hoseok in the first place. He’s practically a saint for putting up with all the shit Yoongi’s given him. Plus, he’s sweet with Namjoon, which makes anyone a good person in Yoongi’s eyes. And he makes good coffee.
The elevator jolts, throwing Yoongi forwards into Seokjin’s arms.
“I’m sorry,” Yoongi says, picking himself back up, “They really need to fix this thing-”
“Yoongi,” Seokjin says in a deathly whisper, “Yoongi, are we moving?”
Yoongi stills, even breathing more quietly as he tries to focus on his surroundings. The floor isn’t shaking. The light up numbers aren’t lighting up. Yoongi’s stomach flips. “I don’t think we are.”
“Oh no,” Seokjin groans, “I knew this would happen one day. I knew it. I think I need the toilet.”
“You don’t,” Yoongi snaps, “Don’t you even think about that. Is there of those emergency phones in here?” Looking around, the elevator looks depressingly bare. And small. Smaller than it seemed just a few seconds ago.
“What about your phone?” Seokjin asks, gripping the handrail tightly as if the floor might suddenly give way beneath him. Yoongi scrambles for his phone, unlocks it.
“No signal,” he says, lifting it higher in the air in the off chance than there’s more signal a few inches above his head, “All this signal in the world and there’s none in this fucking elevator.”
“Keep calm,” Seokjin says, the perfect image of the opposite of calm, “Someone’s got to notice it’s broken, right? There’s only one lift in this place. And we just ate, so we’re not going to starve. You have half your burger in your pocket still.”
“Should we save it?” Yoongi asks, feeling the outline of burger in his pocket that also feels much smaller than it used to be, “Just in case?”
“It won’t come to that,” Seokjin says, “Right?” Yoongi looks him in the eye, and hopes his expression doesn’t come off too negatively. He’s not very hopeful about it.
“I could bang on the door,” Yoongi says.
“We could try opening it first,” Seokjin says, and Yoongi reaches a shaky hand past him to push the open door button. The doors rattle, but stay resolutely closed.
“I’m gonna bang on the door,” Yoongi says, and he strikes his palm against the door, making a dull, underwhelming thud.
“You could try shouting?” Seokjin suggests, and Yoongi does – a strangled yelp that hardly breaks through the thick metal of the elevator. They look at each again, waiting to see who will suggest what first.
“I think,” Yoongi says, “Maybe we should just wait for a bit. If we bang around too much we might make things worse. Let’s just see what happens.”
“If we’re just waiting around then I’m going to sit down,” Seokjin says, settling himself down cross-legged on the floor, “You’re not the only one whose legs are tired.”
Yoongi plops himself down next to Seokjin, legs spread out in odd directions, and he presses their shoulders together. He’s never experienced an elevator from this angle. He’d give a lot to never do it again.
“This fucking sucks,” Yoongi says, and Seokjin nods. “What happens if we die in here?”
Seokjin doesn’t look at him, just keeps gazing intently at the opposite wall as if it might open up and let them out, “I hope I get eaten by wild animals.”
“In the elevator?”
“Yeah,” Seokjin says, and he hugs his knees into his chest, “It just seems right, you know?”
Yoongi hums, not in agreement but in validation, at least, “If I die then it’s got to be by hand-to-hand combat. The winner gets to keep my stuff.”
“That seems pretty extreme,” Seokjin says, and he laughs, a little hysterically. Frantic. Yoongi knows he’s not actually funny.
“Well, yeah,” Yoongi says, “It saves me from having to write a will. I don’t want the government to get involved with my shit.”
“I hate that that’s actually something you’d reasonably do,” Seokjin shakes his head, “I should never have gotten to know you so well. I should have kicked you out of my apartment as soon as I saw what you’d done to my wallpaper.”
“You mean what my landlord did,” Yoongi says, and he wishes (not for the first time) that he lived in a house that he owned (where he could let Seokjin pick the wallpaper), “Anyway. You don’t know me that well. I’ve known you for, what? Two weeks?”
“Something like that,” Seokjin shrugs, “You know time is a difficult concept for me.”
“You’re telling me,” Yoongi scoffs. Seokjin doesn’t respond, just squeezes his knees more tightly. Yoongi finds himself doing the same, pulling up his legs so they press against his chest, warm and reassuring, if a little uncomfortable. He rocks his legs from side to side, knocking gently into Seokjin’s knees.
“What’s something no one else knows about you, then?” Seokjin asks, and he lets his knees fall to the side to press against Yoongi’s, stilling him. “Just so I can say I know you well.”
This is the kind of question Yoongi tries to avoid. What does no one know about him? He doesn’t tell people about what he eats for breakfast (although he eats breakfast with Seokjin), or what he does on his days off (although Seokjin proof-reads his work for him when he can’t write any more), or how long he spends in the shower (although most days by the time he’s done Seokjin is already waiting outside the bathroom door for his turn).
Yoongi opens his mouth, then shuts it, then opens it again. “I had sex with Namjoon in university. I mean, Namjoon already knows that, obviously. But no one else does.”
“Oh,” Seokjin says, and the expression in his voice is probably surprise, “Oh, wow. I had something in mind but your thing is way more interesting. How did that happen?”
“Well, first you take your clothes off-” Seokjin shoots him a look, “We dated for like three months in high school. He’s my best friend, and we went to uni together, and we just ended up banging, like, one time.”
“Like one time?”
Yoongi wracks his brain. It’s been a long time, and everything just seems to blur into one very long event instead of a few very short ones. “More than one time.”
“Was this before or after that one guy? The one in the supermarket?” Seokjin is facing Yoongi by now, a curious glint to his eye. He’s leaning forwards, invading Yoongi’s personal space, but Yoongi doesn’t feel the need to pull back as much as he would with almost anyone else. It just seems as though Seokjin is interested in what he has to say, and that in itself is a miracle.
“Oh, you mean Jimin,” Yoongi says, and the weird feeling he gets in his stomach is actually the absence of nausea, instead of the presence of it, “That was before, way before. Namjoon introduced us, actually. They did maths together for a while.”
“Oh, right,” Seokjin says quietly. “What happened with you two?”
“Me and Namjoon?”
“You and Jimin,” Seokjin says, and he seems much calmer than before, less shaky. He reaches through the short gap between them and takes Yoongi’s hand, massaging between his knuckles and the backs of his fingers.
“It just didn’t work out,” Yoongi says, “We wanted different things, I guess. Life’s just like that, sometimes.” It’s the clearest answer he can give. Even six months worth of reflection never gave him the closure he wanted. Maybe he just doesn’t care all that much anymore. It’s over. All he can do is hope Jimin’s okay, and move on.
“I guess it is,” Seokjin says, and he scoots closer until their sides are touching too, not just their knees. Yoongi leans in too, wriggling to get comfortable against Seokjin’s arm.
“What was your thing, then?” Yoongi asks, and his face is closer to Seokjin’s than he thought. Much closer. From here, he can see all the details in Seokjin’s face – the little moles, the curve of his eyes, the bridge of his nose. Like an abstract painting, up close. A collection of beautiful parts. “That you’ve never told anyone.”
Seokjin doesn’t back away, stays firmly in place. “Well, my friends know,” he says, and he seems almost shy, something Yoongi’s not used to but it’s still recognisably Seokjin, if he thinks about it, “But I’ve never had a first kiss.”
Yoongi’s brain short-circuits, “Oh. That sucks.”
Seokjin laughs, eyes crinkling in the corners, and his head bobs a little further in Yoongi’s direction, “I mean, I don’t really mind. It’s not the most important thing in my life. But yeah, it sucks.”
“Well,” Yoongi says, and is he drunk? Because he must be drunk, to be this stupid. “You’re my boyfriend, right?”
“Fake boyfriend,” Seokjin murmurs, and he’s leaning in, isn’t he? Yoongi isn’t imagining this? Right?
“So you could have a fake first kiss?” Yoongi says, and he frowns, running his words back through his brain, “Like. A practice first kiss. Before your real one.”
“Mm-hmm,” Seokjin says, and he’s staring into Yoongi’s eyes intensely, in a way that makes Yoongi want to pull back and surge forwards at the same time, “That sounds good to me.”
“Me too,” Yoongi says, and they’re so close they’re practically touching noses, and Yoongi catches Seokjin looking at him, cross-eyed. He snorts a little, he can’t help it.
“Be nice,” Seokjin says, and he darts forwards, eyes shut tightly, and he smashes his lips against Yoongi’s in a way that both hurts Yoongi’s mouth and shuts down his brain at the same time. Seokjin’s eyes fly open, startled, and Yoongi giggles and cups his jaw.
“Be more gentle,” Yoongi says, and pulls Seokjin forwards. He doesn’t need any encouragement. Their second kiss is softer, less rushed, and there’s a lot less teeth and a lot more lip in this one. The third kiss is much the same, but the fourth has more spit involved, and they take it from there. Seokjin gets the hang of kissing quickly, much faster than Yoongi had, and if this really isn’t Seokjin’s first time making out then Yoongi would be surprised.
He is surprised, though, when the floor jolts beneath them, and Yoongi remembers they’re rolling around in an elevator.
“Are we moving?” Seokjin says, and little dazed, and his mouth is pink and wet, just like Yoongi imagines his to be. Only not quite as pretty. Yoongi knows he just looks like a mess.
“Maybe?” Yoongi says, casting a glance towards the floor numbers that are beginning to light up again. “Shit, yeah we are.”
“Well, we didn’t starve,” Seokjin remarks, and he scrambles to his feet, pulling Yoongi up with him. He pecks Yoongi on the cheek as he dusts off his jeans, and Yoongi can feel his face heating up. Somehow that one cheek kiss felt even more meaningful than all the rest put together. But he’s not going to think about that, not going to analyse it. Instead, he’s going to focus on how the elevator is lurching to a stop again, only this time the doors rattle open.
“Seokjin!” Taehyung cries from the other side of the door as it opens, “And Jeongguk’s cousin! Are you guys okay?”
“We’re fine,” Seokjin says, just as Yoongi says, “I have a name. It’s Yoongi.”
“Sorry,” Taehyung says, fretting, and he’s waving his phone around in one hand, “I didn’t know it was you guys in there. You must have been stuck for, like, an hour. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“We’re really fine,” Seokjin says, and, as he curls his arm around Yoongi’s waist, Yoongi believes him.
Riding the train is usually so peaceful, but today as they go out of the city and further into the country Yoongi just grows more and more apprehensive. He stills knows his way from the station to his old house by heart. After so many years, Yoongi’s parent’s house hasn’t really changed. The hedge in the front garden is a little overgrown, unless they’re letting it get even bigger. The drive has been cleaned recently, empty of the rows of moss that Yoongi used to pick out of the brickwork as a kid. The car Yoongi’s looking for isn’t on the drive, but plenty of other cars take its place, spilling out onto the curb around the rest of the cul-de-sac. A birthday banner is strung across the doorway, adorned with balloons with the number fifty on them, one popped already.
“Looks like the party’s started,” Seokjin comments, and Yoongi wraps a protective hand around his arm. The material of Seokjin’s suit feels good against his hand – in fact, so does Yoongi’s. Every time he think he’s gotten used to it, he’s reminded again just how nice good clothes feel. Looking at the front door, his stomach churns.
“Should I knock on the door or just go in?” Yoongi asks, and Seokjin takes a hesitant step forwards.
“Knock, I think,” Seokjin says, looking back at Yoongi and nodding his head in the direction of the house, “You don’t live there anymore.”
“Thanks for reminding me,” Yoongi says, and he tightens his grip on Seokjin’s arm as he steels himself marches forwards. It’s not that bad. It’s only a door. It’s only a door, it’s only a door-
Before they can reach the door, it swings open from the inside.
Yoongi is frozen on the front drive, the few seconds of fleeting courage draining away. The kid in the doorway is no more than maybe fifteen, round-faced and dressed in an outfit that was probably bought with growing room in mind.
“He seems nice,” Seokjin bends slightly the murmur in Yoongi’s ear, breath tickling his cheek.
“My brother,” Yoongi explains, “Jihoon.” It’s been how many years seen they’ve seen each other? After so long, Yoongi would have expected his brother to be taller, more adult-looking, but he’s just as pocket-sized as ever. It’s like no time has passed at all. Does Yoongi look different to him, now? Does he look older, or just more tired?
“Yoongi,” Jihoon says again, a little more reserved this time, more hesitant, “Are you coming in?”
“Yeah,” Yoongi says, coughing into his sleeve to get his voice running smoothly again, “Yeah, I’m coming.” Seokjin squeezes Yoongi’s hand on his arm, and Yoongi takes a step forward, and another, and another, until they reach the front door. Music is playing further into the house, and there’s talking, and laughter. Seokjin pries Yoongi’s hand off his arm and takes it in his instead, slotting his fingers firmly between Yoongi’s.
“I didn’t think you were coming,” Jihoon says, so quietly that Yoongi almost doesn’t catch it, dazed as he is.
“I didn’t think so, either,” Yoongi says, and now that he’s closer he can see that Jihoon has grown up, his face is stronger and less like a cartoon baby, and he looks tougher now, somehow. He has a more resolute look on his face. “This is Seokjin, he’s my boyfriend.”
Telling Jihoon isn’t so bad. It’s only the first hurdle – if this goes wrong then they can turn around and go home with only minimally hurt feelings.
“It’s nice to meet you,” Jihoon says to Seokjin, who he’s clearly only just now seeing for the first time, “It’s really, really nice. Please take care of my idiot brother.”
“I’ll do my best,” Seokjin says, and he laughs, and the tension leaves Yoongi’s muscles as he finds himself laughing too, and Jihoon is laughing, and Yoongi feels like crying. He reaches out and pulls Jihoon in for a hug, gripping him tightly, and Seokjin’s arms are around them both, cradling Yoongi’s back.
“I missed you,” Yoongi says into the cramped space between them all, “I missed you so much.”
“I missed you too,” Jihoon is muffled by Yoongi’s shoulder in his face, “Please don’t suffocate me.” The three of them separate, Yoongi and Seokjin gravitating back together, hands fitting back into each other.
“Where’s the party at, then?” Seokjin says, and Yoongi breathes a secret sigh of relief that Seokjin spoke first. He has the feeling he’d just choke up.
“Through here,” Jihoon says, leading Seokjin and Yoongi through to the front room as soon as they’ve kicked off their shoes. “It’s almost over. I don’t know where mum and dad are right now? But everyone else is here. Expect for Auntie Jisoo and her lot, they didn’t want to come.”
“Why not?” Yoongi says, unnoticed as of yet by the rest of the room, taking the opportunity to look for different aunties and uncles and cousins and family friends.
“Mum says she stole her painting from her honeymoon in Jeju and they had this big argument last summer and mum accused auntie of cheating on her husband,” Jihoon says, shaking his head woefully, “But actually dad broke the painting, I saw him do it.”
“Did your auntie cheat on her husband?” Seokjin asks, and Jihoon shrugs.
“I’m not saying she didn’t,” he says, which tells Yoongi everything he needs to know.
“Is Jeongguk coming?” Yoongi asks, and nervousness creeps back up on him. No matter how awful the situation, Yoongi can always count of Jeongguk to charm their way out. The aunties love him.
“Yeah, he’s bringing Grandma later,” Jihoon says, and he walks into the living room, weaving his way in between guests, waiting for Seokjin and Yoongi to follow. Seokjin starts walking first, but Yoongi overtakes him, despite how much he’s dreading this whole evening. It’s his house, after all, his family. He’s the one who has to deal with this; Seokjin is just here for moral support. And to help him prove to his parents that he’s having a better time without them.
His mum is at the kitchen counter, wearing a cocktail dress and a badge with the number 50 written on it, surrounded by family members who Yoongi barely recognise.
Jihoon reaches her first, and leans over to talk quietly in her ear. “Yoongi’s here.”
Yoongi’s mum’s head whips around. “Yoongi?” For the first time in a million years, their eyes meet, and Yoongi fights the urge to look away. “You’re here.” She doesn’t sound glad, or upset – she’s just stating a fact. Yoongi is here. Her eyes are more wrinkled, heavier set in her face than they used to be.
“Happy birthday,” Yoongi says, and he holds out the present, in all its badly wrapped glory. He’d bought a vase online, and he’s already told Seokjin he’s certain she’ll break it before the day is out.
“Thank you,” she says stiffly, and she puts the present on the counter. Everyone seems to be looking at it. And then they’re looking at Yoongi.
The last time he saw most of these people, he’d been seventeen or even younger, quiet and edgy and reluctant to speak to anyone. He still feels a little like that now, only it’s more a feeling of disdain than of anxiety. Not one of these people has tried to get into contact with him in the last few years. Except for Jihoon, the only good person in this room apart from Seokjin, who’s standing awkwardly behind Yoongi. Yoongi slips a hand around his waist and tugs him forwards, into the circle.
“This is Seokjin, my boyfriend,” Yoongi says, “I was told I could bring a plus one.”
“Boyfriend,” his mum repeats, without feeling.
“It’s lovely to meet you,” Seokjin says, completely hiding the fact that he feels the opposite, “Happy birthday.”
“Thank you,” Yoongi’s mum says, and she gives him a tense, pursed smile. “There’s food in the dining room.” Clearly, that’s an invitation to leave the room, and Yoongi isn’t gracious enough to not take it. He tightens his grip on Seokjin’s waist and drags him away, into the dining room where the buffet is already half eaten. Seokjin seems torn between the buffet and keeping Yoongi company, and Yoongi nudges him onwards towards the food.
“How have you been doing?” Yoongi’s mum asks, “You haven’t been in touch in a while. We weren’t sure you’d be coming.”
“I’m doing really great, thank you,” Yoongi tries to summon up all the enthusiasm he can muster, and he’s cheered on by the sight of Seokjin piling party food high onto his paper plate, “I’m writing a book now.”
“A book?” Yoongi’s mum says, and she purses her lips to keep herself from laughing, “Do you think it’s a good idea?”
Yoongi shrugs, as much as he knows she hates that gesture, “Namjoon thinks it’s good. He’s getting it published.”
Yoongi’s mum picks at a bowl of grapes on the table, shiny and polished to a point where they look fake. “I never liked that boy.”
“You never liked him because he had dreams bigger than doing what he was told,” Yoongi says low enough so that no one else will hear, and fists his hands in the loose fabric of his trousers, childish as it seems, “And because he’s a nice person, and because I dated him when I was fifteen.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. You know better than to speak back to people like that.”
“You know what?” Yoongi says, “I shouldn’t have come here. I’ve been here for five minutes and you’re already talking shit about my friends and making fun of what I’m doing with my life. At least I’m doing something with it.”
“I suppose you are,” she says, and looks away, eyes lingering on Seokjin before moving past. For a second, Yoongi sees what she sees – the expensive yet informal clothes, the undercut, the bleached hair, the casual way he attacks the buffet food and stuffs it in his mouth. Yoongi knows Seokjin can act better than that, he’d acted like a prince at the dinner party (at least, until he was drunk). And yet he wouldn’t change Seokjin’s behaviour, and that’s the difference between him and his mother. Seokjin can act however he fucking likes, and so can Yoongi.
“I’m going to bed,” Yoongi says eventually over the faded music, “It’s getting pretty late. We had a long train ride and this isn’t very interesting, anyway. Sorry we missed your party.”
“Are you going to stay for breakfast?” Yoongi’s mum asks, although she doesn’t sound hopeful.
“I’m not sure,” Yoongi says, meeting eyes with Seokjin, who tilts his head slightly and frowns, “I think we need to get going fairly early in the morning if we want to be home at a reasonable time.”
“It’s not that far,” Yoongi’s mum says, and Seokjin appears next to them, unnoticed in the moment.
“We just need to beat the traffic, you know?” Seokjin says, in the firm voice of his that defies arguments.
“I suppose,” Yoongi’s mum purses her lips but she doesn’t say anything else. Uncomfortable, Yoongi looks away, surveys the rest of the room. It’s emptying out now, and the few dedicated family members who’ve stayed have migrated to the garden, where they sit in deck chairs holding drinks. They don’t seem to have noticed he’s here, or if they have then they don’t care enough to talk to him. Not much has changed. Candles are lit along the brick wall, little pools of light in the warm darkness. Jeongguk is there too, illuminated by the light of his phone, and he seems to sense that Yoongi’s here because he stands up, too.
“Let’s go, Seokjinnie,” Yoongi says, pushing himself to his feet and holding out his hand for Seokjin to take, “Mum, I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Alright,” she says, and she turns away to join in the conversation behind her, and that’s that.
“We’re going now,” Yoongi says to the room at large, and he says it quietly enough that no one notices, and they slip away upstairs with only Jeongguk on their tail. Upstairs it’s dark, except for a thin sliver of light coming in from under Jihoon’s bedroom door.
Yoongi knocks, and it swings open straight away.
“How did that go?” Jihoon asks. He’s changed into his pyjamas already, which was always Yoongi’s trademark at parties. It makes him a little proud, and a lot more sad.
“Horrible,” Yoongi says, and he feels Jeongguk run up behind him.
“I heard,” Jeongguk says, “Why is your mum so nasty? Holy shit. I only came for the free food.”
“Don’t swear,” Yoongi says reflexively, glancing at Jihoon, and Jihoon rolls his eyes.
“I’m not five,” he says, and the rest of them laugh, Yoongi laughing in a way that’s more a quick breath outwards but it’s enough. “Are you coming in? This is a judgment free zone.”
“Sounds great,” Yoongi says, and the three of them shuffle inside. For all that Jihoon seems to be growing up a lot like Yoongi, his room is very different. Where Yoongi’s room had been covered in posters, and then bare, and then covered in different posters to cover up where he’d peeled the paint away from the wall with adhesive, Jihoon’s room is very minimalistic. Soft pastel colours. No posters. No real forms of self-expression. Yoongi gets the feeling that’s not his choice.
“I can’t believe you actually came,” Jeongguk says, perching on the side of Jihoon’s bed, “You animal. You did it. Congratulations.”
“I don’t think I’ll be invited back again,” Yoongi says, and Jihoon pulls a face. “Hey, don’t look at me like that. You’re invited up to my shitty apartment whenever.”
“Thanks,” Jihoon says, and he cheers up a little. The computer on his desk is running a game, paused mid-fight. All of a sudden, Yoongi feels himself choke up, the adrenaline of a few minutes ago finally catching up with him. Seokjin catches his eye, and Yoongi can tell he understands, somehow.
“What are you playing?” Seokjin asks, gesturing to the computer, and that’s the right thing to say because Jihoon’s eyes light up. While he explains his game, Seokjin and Jeongguk crowd around the computer screen, and Yoongi’s content to sit back and listen while he calms himself down. As Jihoon tries to demonstrate how the game works, Yoongi finds himself calling out tips without ever having played it himself – the game mechanics are obvious, or at least he thinks so.
Without anyone noticing, the clock speeds forwards, and Yoongi doesn’t check the time again until well into the early hours of the morning. A level is completed, and Jihoon and Jeongguk are still going strong while Seokjin is flagging, and Yoongi has retreated back to the comfort of the bed. Let the kids play their games.
“Well,” Yoongi says, slapping his knees like an old man, “We’re going to bed.”
“Losers,” Jeongguk says, “The cool kid club never sleeps.”
“That’s because you still have naptime,” Yoongi says, and he feels pride at the fact that Seokjin’s trying to stifle laughter.
“Fine,” Jihoon says, “Just know that you’re banned from the club now.”
“I’ll try not to lose any sleep over it,” Yoongi says, and at the door he stops. “I missed hanging out. It kinda sucked, moving away.”
“It sucked for me, too,” Jihoon says softly, and he sounds much older, much more sombre, “Try to message more often.”
Yoongi smiles, but he can’t cover up the sadness in his eyes, “I’ll try. Goodnight.” They say their goodbyes, and Yoongi leads Seokjin down the corridor in silence. At his room, he hesitates, but opening the door is practically a walk in the park compared to the rest of the day.
Nothing has changed. Before now, Yoongi wouldn’t have been able to recall the state in which he’d left his room, but as he turns on the light it all comes flooding back. The posters, yes, but also the grey bedsheets and the lamp on the desk and papers on the desk itself, ordered into neat stacks. The CDs he left are still here, and the DVDs, and the books he hasn’t touched in years. It’s covered in dust, but the bed looks suspiciously clean.
While they get changed, neither of them speaks. Yoongi’s bed is a single. The double had gone to Jihoon.
“Do you want to share?” Yoongi says, “There’s a spare bedroom but there might be someone in it.”
Seokjin unbuttons his shirt and lets it fall to the floor in a heap, “We can share. I don’t mind.” He climbs into bed first, and Yoongi joins him after, once he’s pulled on an oversized t-shirt from his bag to use as pyjamas. Lying side by side proves difficult, and they clamber over each other trying to get comfortable, settling down with Yoongi’s back against Seokjin’s side, Seokjin’s arm slung over him to keep from being crushed.
Drowned in the silence, Yoongi feels compelled to speak, to try to explain what’s happening. He shifts in Seokjin’s arms, and the bed creaks. It barely held teenage Yoongi by himself – it’s a miracle that it can hold adult Yoongi and his adult boyfriend. Fake boyfriend.
“I moved out when I was seventeen,” Yoongi says eventually, “I guess they just kept all my stuff like that. I never came back to change it.”
“That’s a shame,” Seokjin says gently, and he sounds like he really does mean it, “Where did you go?”
“My aunt’s house. In Seoul.” Yoongi can’t help but smile, even though mentioning it twists his gut, “My favourite aunt. I stayed there until I went to university, and then I moved into my apartment with Namjoon during university, and then he moved out.”
Yoongi hums in disapproval. “It’s mine, now.”
“It’s ours,” Seokjin huffs, and Yoongi laughs, a tiny breathy thing that peters out into thin air. There are questions that hang around the bed, waiting to be asked.
“Which, ah- which aunt did you move in with? There were a lot of people here. I didn’t really get introduced and I’m bad with names.” That’s a lie – Yoongi is almost certain that Seokjin has remembered every person he’s ever met in his life.
Yoongi sucks his breath in through his teeth as an ache runs down his spine, a sorrowful thing that pricks at his skin, “She isn’t here.”
“She couldn’t make it?”
Yoongi shakes his head in the dark, “She died.”
“Oh,” Seokjin says against the crushing silence of the room, “I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sure she must had been lovely.”
Yoongi takes a long, shuddering breath, “Yeah, she was.”
Next to him, Seokjin breathes deeply, and Yoongi can feel the rise and fall in his chest. “Do you wanna talk about it?”
“No,” Yoongi says automatically, “Yes. Maybe.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I think I want to?” Yoongi says, and he shifts around to face the ceiling, “I mean. She died while I was at uni. I couldn’t stand living here anymore and I moved in with her, and then while I was at university I was living with Namjoon in the dorms. And she had cancer, but she didn’t know until it was too late, and she didn’t tell me until even later.”
“I can’t imagine,” Seokjin says, and Yoongi feels compelled to talk, in a way that he hasn’t for years. Now that it’s been so long, though, he isn’t sure what to say. The wounds aren’t so fresh. The raw emotions are gone, replaced by years of reflection and keeping things locked up and not talking to anyone about anything unless it’s absolutely necessary. In ways, this is uncharted territory, and he’s afraid to throw them both into the deep end all at once.
“I think,” Yoongi starts, grasping the first thought that comes to mind and running with it, “I think that’s part of why it didn’t work out with Jimin. I didn’t know how to deal with anything back then. I just hid my feelings. He doesn’t do that; he’s very open.”
“It’s good to talk about your feelings,” Seokjin says, “But I know what you mean about hiding them. I guess I do that a lot, too.”
“Do you want to un-hide them? Yoongi asks, and he shuffles round again, nose pressed against Seokjin’s shoulder. His t-shirt is twisted around his waist. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“I’m not sure I know how to, sometimes,” Seokjin says, and a puff of hot air grazes Yoongi’s scalp, “I didn’t learn. I’ve been trying to teach myself how to be more open.”
“Me too,” Yoongi says, “But I’m still pretty shit at it.”
Seokjin exhales in a way that’s something of a laugh, “I don’t know how bad you were before, but I think you’re doing much better now.”
“Thanks,” Yoongi says. For a few moments, however long, Yoongi listens to Seokjin’s breathing, slow and calm. His chest rises, pushes softly against Yoongi’s then falls away as he breathes out.
“At home,” Seokjin says, and he begins quietly, as though the room might swallow up his words if he speaks quietly enough so that Yoongi won’t have to listen, “I had to be a person that I’m not. I was a spoiled little shit, I’m not gonna lie. But my older brother was meant to take over the company and he decided he didn’t want to so that meant that I would have to do it.”
“Did you want to do that?”
“Do you really need to ask?”
“I guess I don’t.”
“Right,” Seokjin says, “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. But I knew that I had to be a good son and do what my parents told me and learn about, like business. And finances. And I was good at it, and I know a lot, but I hated it and I still hate it.”
A picture starts to form in Yoongi’s head, “So you ran away.”
“Sort of,” Seokjin says, and he takes a moment to breathe, “I got permission to move out. I had to actually ask for permission but I got it. I said that women would be more impressed by an independent man. Can you believe six weeks ago I thought I was interested in women? I mean, they’re lovely, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not. I’m definitely not. I kinda knew before but I’m sure of it now.”
“Good for you,” Yoongi says, murmuring into Seokjin’s collarbone, “It feels good to be certain of who you are.”
“It really fucking does,” Seokjin says, “And I know I don’t want to run a company. I don’t need to do that. I don’t exist to make my parents happy.”
“No one does.”
“You’re so right, all of the time,” Seokjin says.
“Damn right I am,” Yoongi says, “So how did you end up here, then? What happened between you moving into your apartment and you turning up on my doorstep?”
Seokjin clicks his tongue against his teeth a few times, “To be honest, I still don’t fully remember. I’m not sure I ever will at this point. I remember a friend of mine did this science experiment thing? For money? And he said he had a great experience and I guess I just wanted to. Experience things. For once.”
“So you took part in a cliché shady science experiment and got sent to the future,” Yoongi says, “Seokjinnie, if I didn’t know you, I’d say you had a screw loose.”
Seokjin laughs, “Yeah, it sounds kinda far-fetched. But it’s the truth. I just wanted to make a decision for myself, you know? So I did. I just packed up a load of money and stuff and went.”
“And you ended up thirty years in the future, stuck with me, and gay.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Seokjin says, and he squeezes Yoongi in his arms, crushing him sweetly, “I’ve had more fun in the last few weeks than I’ve had before in my life, and I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Huh?” Yoongi says, allowing himself to be forcibly moulded to the shape of Seokjin’s chest, “Sure you could have.”
“No,” Seokjin says, “I really couldn’t. You just do whatever you think is right, you know? You don’t take shit from anyone.”
“Neither do you.”
“I used to,” Seokjin says.
“We all did,” Yoongi says.
“I think,” Seokjin says, “I don’t really know what I’m thinking. I started off wanted to go back, and now… I don’t know. I had so many opportunities to look into what happened, to try and get back to my family. When I spent the day with Taehyung we just talked about random shit instead of all his research. I could have spoken to Namjoon about different science theories and instead we’ve talked about books. I’ve taken up so much of your time asking you to help me and all we’ve done is go on dates.”
“Fake dates,” Yoongi says. It just slips out, but it’s there in the open now.
“Yeah,” Seokjin says, but he withdraws his arm slightly.
Yoongi struggles to find something to talk about, fast, “Um. Didn’t Taehyung mention you were in films? What was that like?”
Seokjin shrugs, jostling Yoongi’s shoulder, “Yeah, it was okay, I guess. My parents pushed me for it, but I don’t know. They thought it would make a good hobby. I’m not sure that’s what I want to do, either.”
“I bet you were good,” Yoongi says, “I mean it. You’ve done a really convincing job at pretending to date me.”
Seokjin hums in agreement. He must be getting tired. “I’m gonna go to sleep, Yoongi.”
“Me too,” Yoongi says, and hesitates, “I’d like to see them. Your films, I mean.”
“I was really bad,” Seokjin groans, pulling the sheets over his head which leaves Yoongi’s feet bare, and he yanks it back down, “Trust me, they’re so embarrassing.”
Yoongi props himself up on one elbow, and his eyes have adjusted enough that he can make out Seokjin’s face in the dark. The outlines, the whites of his eyes, his bleached hair lying against the pillow. “Shut up. You’re so good.”
“I’m not,” Seokjin whines, and he rolls over. Instead of pushing, Yoongi sinks back down, and he tucks his face into Seokjin’s neck. He smells like faint shampoo and the sweat of travelling.
“You’re really good,” Yoongi says, quietly, almost to himself. He doesn’t quite have the words to make Seokjin feel better about himself, and he wishes he did. Someone better, like Hoseok or even Namjoon or Jeongguk, would know what to say. “You try so hard.”
“Yeah,” Seokjin says, “I try.”
“You do,” Yoongi insists, and Seokjin doesn’t reply for long enough that Yoongi assumes he’s fallen asleep.
“What time are we going tomorrow?”
“As early as possible,” Yoongi says. He wants enough time to say goodbye to his brother, and not enough time to speak to his mother, and then he’s got an idea for a stop on the way back. He doesn’t mention it to Seokjin- he’s too nervous. Seokjin grunts, and he doesn’t speak again.
Yoongi’s aunt’s grave is badly kept, which is and isn’t his fault. He hasn’t visited since the funeral, but he knows other family members have visited who could have tidied up a bit. Left flowers. Not often, though – people are right when they compare Yoongi to his aunt. They’re both outcasts, of sorts.
Today, Yoongi brings a bouquet of flowers (courtesy of Seokjin’s last few thousand won) and he places them delicately in front of the headstone. They look almost out of place after going so long without. He’s not sure if this is what she would have wanted. He supposes it doesn’t really matter what she would have wanted.
Overhead, the sun beats down on the back of Yoongi’s neck, and on Seokjin, who’s keeping his distance. Yoongi would be glad of the distance from most people, but Seokjin’s made a home for himself in Yoongi’s personal space. He feels too far away. Yoongi wants to run back to him, hold his hand, bury his face between Seokjin’s neck and shoulder. Standing here, in this place, feels underwhelming and overwhelming at the same time.
He feels too much, but he’s not sure if they’re the right emotions. He’s not sure what he feels. The gravestone is mossy and grass has sprung up around the stone where it hasn’t been reached by lawnmowers. The grass is dried and yellowing. More than anything, the graveyard feels desolate, oppressively empty. If his aunt’s spirit is watching over him, she’s certainly not watching right now, in this place.
“Come over,” Yoongi says, looking around for Seokjin, who’s averting his gaze towards the road, watching for cars. For such a nice day, there seems to be no one else around. No cars on the road. It’s quiet, too quiet. Nothing to distract from the silence, except for the endless drone of cicadas that fade into the background of summer. Seokjin walks over, and stops just short of where Yoongi’s standing.
“Is this hers?” Seokjin says, somewhat awkwardly, and he rubs the back of his neck in a way that Yoongi recognises as being one of his own nervous gestures.
“Yeah,” Yoongi says, and he turns to look back at the grave, “I don’t really know what I came here for. I don’t think I’m getting anything out of this.”
Seokjin makes the last few steps to bring them together and rubs his shoulder, hand warm and comforting through the thin fabric of his t-shirt, “Hey, that’s okay. We can go home if you like?”
“Not yet,” Yoongi shakes his head, “I’m gonna take a walk.”
“Do you walk me to come?”
If Seokjin comes along then Yoongi’s going to want to talk, to fill the space between them with useless words that won’t help him, won’t explain the way he feels. “No, thank you. I just need to clear my head.”
“That’s okay,” Seokjin says with a mournful smile, and he gives Yoongi’s shoulder one last squeeze.
So long has passed that, as Yoongi walks, he doesn’t feel as sad as he thought he might. Perhaps that’s the hardest part of it all. He should have come sooner, and maybe he would have felt better about it then. Or worse. Whichever is the right emotion to feel at a time like this.
“Yoongi!” Seokjin calls. He’s standing at the other end of the graveyard, far enough that Yoongi’s surprised he’d managed to walk so far away. He turns and makes the journey over to where Seokjin’s standing, a couple of graves down from where his aunt is buried.
Seokjin is crying. It’s an odd sight, almost uncomfortable, and there are those sad feelings that Yoongi had been trying to find, tugging at his heartstrings.
“What’s the matter?” Yoongi asks, jogging the last couple of steps.
Seokjin shakes his head, and he makes no effort to wipe away the tears, as if he’s trying to pretend they aren’t there. He just looks down at the graves in front of him.
“Seokjin, I’m so sorry,” Yoongi says, reading the names inscribed on the stones, “We shouldn’t have come here.”
“I think I always knew, in a way,” Seokjin says sadly, giving his head a soft shake, and together they look pensively at the two gravestones sitting side by side in the grass. They’re both immaculate, with flowers that must have been fresh this morning to not have dried up in the sun. Yoongi knows better than to ask if Seokjin is okay. He knows Seokjin better than to ask. He doesn’t say anything, just watches Seokjin out of the corner of his eye. One time, Seokjin’s shoulders tremble, and he tips his head back towards the sky, and lets out a deep breath.
“Do you want me to go back for flowers?” Yoongi offers, and Seokjin exhales deeply again.
“No, I don’t think so.” Seokjin says, and he turns away. “I don’t think it would make any difference.”
“No,” Yoongi says, a rare breeze ruffling his fringe, “I don’t think it would.”
“Let’s go home,” Seokjin says, and Yoongi nods, holds out his hand for Seokjin to take. He takes it. Seokjin’s palm is sticky and warm and solid and Yoongi squeezes it. Seokjin squeezes back, softer but still there, still reassuring.
The train ride back home seems faster than the outward journey, warping time so they have to exist less in that awkward, solemn quietness that’s hanging over them. Yoongi spends most of the ride thinking, not even listening to music, just thinking. If Seokjin needs him, for anything, he’s here. He tells him so, tells him enough times that Seokjin tells him to stop worrying. But he can’t.
So he doesn’t, he just stops mentioning it to Seokjin, and it almost works.
Back at the apartment, in the late afternoon, Taehyung is lurking sheepishly in the corridor.
“I thought you guys would be back sooner,” he says, waving his hands as they come up the last of the stairs together, “There were these two men in suits, I’ve been waiting here since they came, they let themselves into your apartment.”
“Are they still in there?” Seokjin asks, and Yoongi feels his stomach fill with dread even though he’s almost certain he knows who those men are by now.
“Yeah,” Taehyung says, nodding, and he retreats back to the safety of his doorway, “Do you want me to call someone?”
“No,” Yoongi says, “I don’t think we’ll need that. Thanks though, Tae.”
“It’s no problem!” Taehyung says, “I’m gonna go now, though.” He ducks back into his apartment and shuts the door firmly behind him, leaving Seokjin and Yoongi between the two closed doors.
“I think,” Yoongi comes close to Seokjin to whisper in his ear, “It’s those men from the car park a few weeks ago. You’ve seen them since then too, right?”
“Uh-huh,” Seokjin says, putting his hand on the doorknob and pushing, “Not in my apartment, though.”
The door opens, revealing two men sitting on the couch. One is short and holding a briefcase, and the other is tall and spread out across half of the couch, and they both turn to face the door as it swings open.
“Shut the door,” the shorter one says, and Yoongi hesitates but he shuts the door behind them anyway. It’s not as though he couldn’t just open it again if he wanted to.
“Who are you?” Yoongi asks, taking a step forwards so that he’s level with Seokjin, and dumping his backpack full of his overnight stuff next to the front door. “Why have you been following us?”
“My name is Do Kyungsoo,” the shorter one says, “And this is my partner, Park Chanyeol.” Chanyeol looks as if he’d very much like to wave, but he holds himself back.
“So, like partners, partners?” Seokjin says, bristling, “Because we’re not looking for a foursome, if that’s why you broke into our apartment.”
Seemingly without acknowledging Seokjin at all, Kyungsoo opens his briefcase and sets it down on the coffee table, “We represent a branch of government scientific intelligence. Thirty years ago, some important technology disappeared. Recently, parts of it resurfaced in this area, and we strongly believe they’re connected to you, Mr Kim.”
“He’s nothing to do with any government science shit,” Yoongi says, stepping forwards in front of Seokjin, who puts a hand on his shoulder.
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?” Seokjin says.
Kyungsoo starts bringing out paper in a way that reminds Yoongi of Taehyung, only more dignified, “Here’s your evidence. Or as much of it as you’re allowed to see without signing a contract.”
Seokjin and Yoongi both move forwards too see, and ordered on the table are timetables, graphs, charts, long documents full of thick, dense text, and photographs. Like Taehyung, they’ve compiled images of Seokjin from the past but they also have him from the now, as well. There he is, shopping, petting a dog, holding hands with Yoongi, buying a coffee with Yoongi, giggling with one hand covering his face at something he’d said to Yoongi-
“Isn’t this basically stalking?” Yoongi says, going to pick up a photograph, but Kyungsoo snatches the photo away before he can touch it.
“Not really,” the taller one, Chanyeol, says, “It’s all about perspective.”
“You’re invading our right to privacy,” Yoongi says.
“I’m sorry you feel that way, Mr Min,” Kyungsoo says.
“Just say what you’re here to say,” Seokjin says, sitting on the chair opposite the couch and taking a handful of photos to flick through.
“What we’re here to say is that we may have a way to send you home,” Chanyeol says, “We’re looking for the scientist who conducted the original experiment, and we believe we’ve found him. But we need you to get into contact with him to prove it.”
“How would that prove anything?” Seokjin asks.
“Well, if he can do what he says he can do, and you go back to your own timeline, he’s the person we’re looking for,” Kyungsoo says, and he looks at Yoongi, “Would you step out of the room for a minute?”
“He’ll stay here,” Seokjin says firmly, grabbing Yoongi’s hand, “I want him here.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“He really should leave the room,” Chanyeol says, and adds, “Please.”
“He can go of his own free will or he can go by force,” Kyungsoo adds, and Yoongi steps forwards again, making sure Seokjin’s firmly behind him. “By force, then.”
“No, I-” Yoongi says, and Chanyeol stands up, grabbing his arm with a hand that’s large enough to almost close around his bicep, and Yoongi wishes he could time travel and send himself to the gym six months ago.
“Sorry about this,” Chanyeol leans down to whisper in Yoongi’s ear as he pulls him out of the room, “He’s a really nice person. He just takes his job very seriously.”
“Let me go back in there,” Yoongi says as he’s deposited in the corridor, and Chanyeol makes an apologetic face as he closes the door, leaving Yoongi on the wrong side of his apartment.
“How’s it going?” Taehyung asks, peering around his own front door. He’s holding an apple in one hand, and he takes a bite out of it, chewing thoughtfully.
“It’s shit,” Yoongi says, pressing his ear to the door. For once, the thin apartment walls aren’t on his side, and he can’t hear a thing. The door opposite clicks shut, and Yoongi startles when Taehyung comes to sit down next to him, laying a hand on his knee.
“Do you want some of my apple?” Taehyung offers, holding out a side without any bite marks in it.
“I’m okay, thanks,” Yoongi says, and sits down against the door.
“It’s gonna be okay,” Taehyung says, mouth full of apple, spitting a little.
Yoongi has to trust Seokjin. That’s all he can do right now. This is Seokjin’s choice, his decision to make. “I hope so.”
Days pass. Seokjin is eerily silent – too silent. He stays in the apartment all day. When Yoongi comes back from work, more often than not Seokjin’s still in the same place that he was in when Yoongi left. In the evenings that he isn’t working, Yoongi cooks up dinner as best as he can (he’s been improving recently) but Seokjin’s plate goes all but untouched. Half eaten meals left on the counter until morning, when Yoongi scrapes the leftovers into the bin.
And then, just over a week since visiting the graveyard, Seokjin corners Yoongi just before he’s about to go to bed.
“I’ve, um,” Seokjin snags the back of Yoongi’s shirt, eyes downcast, “I’ve had a telephone call. From the agency. They can-” Seokjin inhales sharply and Yoongi is torn between leaning in to comfort him or ducking backwards. He isn’t sure he wants to hear this. “They can send me back. Tomorrow morning.”
Yoongi finds his hands wandering to where Seokjin’s holding onto his shirt, curling his fingers around Seokjin’s. Seokjin squeezes back. “That’s so… Short-notice.”
Seokjin shakes his head, “No, they called a few days ago. I wasn’t sure how to tell you, not after everything.”
After everything. All that they’ve been through together, and Seokjin has to go back now, like a child called home by their parent.
“What if you say no?”
“I don’t think I have much of a choice,” Seokjin scoffs, the quick upturn of his mouth at odds with the sorrowful look in his eyes.
They’re still standing in Yoongi’s bedroom doorway, so Yoongi steps inside, Seokjin following behind. He’s been in Yoongi’s room before, sure, mostly with Yoongi and sometimes without. But this time feels different. Yoongi’s washed his sheets recently and the room smells clean, almost-fresh air lingering from the half open window. Better close it soon, before the bugs come in. As Seokjin takes the few steps to the window, Yoongi’s stomach sinks. This could be – very likely will be – the last time Seokjin will be in this room at the same time as he is. The window closes with a snap.
Seokjin stands at the window, looking out at a view that Yoongi can’t see from where he’s sitting on the bed. He can just about make out Seokjin’s forlorn reflection in the dark glass, the curve of Seokjin’s hand against the windowsill.
“So you’re leaving, then?” The words don’t mean to come out but they spill out anyway.
“I guess I am,” Seokjin says, and he turns to face Yoongi, silhouetted against the streetlights outside, “You don’t mind, do you?”
Yoongi tries to think of how much of an inconvenience Seokjin has been, about how much money he’s spent keeping him housed and fed and how he makes him interact with his coworkers and how he stood up to his family and how he held his hand so stiffly at first but now their hands fit together like puzzle pieces, even when there’s no one around to see them.
“No, I don’t mind.”
“I don’t really mind, either.”
“Good.” Yoongi tucks his feet up onto the bed, toes cold in the brisk chill of the room. A chill settles over him. In the back of his mind he knew that Seokjin would find a way to get back home eventually, and on some days he longed for that day to come, but this is… Too soon. Seokjin comes to sit on the bed, a fair distance apart that Yoongi would once have welcomed. Now it confuses him, it frightens him. He resists the urge to fill the space.
Seokjin yawns and stretches his hands above his head, sweater (Yoongi’s sweater) riding up his stomach. If he was in public, around friends, Yoongi would have made a point to look, just to prove a point. Now that they’re alone, Yoongi makes a point not to. Tries to. Away from all the dieting, Seokjin’s stomach has a soft curve to it, although it could be softer. Stress, sadness, worry – it’s all been eating away at him for the past few days. Eating at them both. Yoongi is hungry.
Finished yawning, Seokjin brings his arms down again, settles his hands back down in his lap. Clasps them tightly together. Takes a deep breath. “I’m not sure that I want to go.”
Deep in his chest, Yoongi’s heart beats faster, “Are you sure?”
“I just,” Seokjin loosens his hands, stares at open, empty palms, “I kinda like it here, you know? It’s not perfect, but your friends and mobile phones and the internet and, uh, living my own life. Taking my own path. You know.”
“Uh-huh,” Yoongi says, He can’t bring himself to look at Seokjin, he can’t do it. Instead, he focuses on his breathing, focuses on keeping his heart from jumping up his throat.
“And what about everything else,” Seokjin falls backwards against the sheets, gazing up at the ceiling with a certain intensity, “Who knows if everything’s stayed the same while I’ve been gone? What if it goes wrong and I can’t get home after all? I might be giving all of this up for nothing.”
Weary, Yoongi lowers himself down onto his side, curved around Seokjin like a stiff, uncomfortable question mark. “I guess nobody knows. It’s up to you.”
Seokjin tucks his knees into his chest and hugs them, gently rocking like a baby. Outside, it’s started to rain, droplets spattering on the glass. Seokjin breathes deeply and evenly, and the sheets rustle underneath him as he moves.
“Everybody would miss you.” Yoongi stops himself from saying I would miss you and he holds his tongue instead. It’s not about what Yoongi wants. It’s about what Seokjin wants.
If Yoongi has learned anything, it’s that Seokjin loves his friends, loves his family, loves anyone who’s smiled at him sweetly or had a kind word to say about him. Maybe Seokjin has met a couple of nice enough people here but at the end of the day, he can’t choose this over his family, over his whole life. Much as Yoongi avoids thinking about it, Seokjin already had a life before any of this happened. And hopes and dreams and ambitions. And they never involved Yoongi.
“Don’t listen to me,” Yoongi says finally, “But I think you should go back. Take the chance.”
Seokjin closes his eyes, eyelashes fluttering against his cheek, “I’ll think about it.”
The rain has picked up, hitting harder, and Yoongi can’t help but feel as though the weather is mocking him. Making him feel upset when he has no right to be. Faint light glances off Yoongi’s alarm clock and it reads much later than Yoongi had expected. Is that why he feels so drained? Seokjin’s eyes aren’t opening and his chest rises and falls smoothly, gently. Yoongi edges closer until he can feel the warmth radiating from Seokjin’s body. He basks in it, finding it easier to breathe now that the distance between them doesn’t suffocate him so much.
As if that isn’t unhealthy. As if Yoongi isn’t so starved for attention that he’s latched onto the first person who seemed to not hate him at first sight. It could be good to spend some time apart.
Not forever, though. Please not forever.
Getting up, Yoongi heads to the bathroom for no reason other than to give himself space. He splashes cold water on his face, numbing his fingers, and the towel scratches his skin as he rubs it dry. His face is pink in the mirror, dark circles still there under his eyes but maybe not as bad as they have been.
When he returns to the bedroom, Seokjin is still lying on the bed, only now he’s rolled over onto his side to face where Yoongi had been. Yoongi settles back down, almost timidly, aware of every individual bedspring stabbing into him.
Seokjin cracks opens his eyes and Yoongi freezes.
“You could always find me again,” Yoongi says, voice hoarse, “You know where to find me.”
Seokjin closes his eyes again, screwed shut this time, “Thirty years is a long time, Yoonie. I’ll be old, too old for you. Maybe I’ll have fallen in love with someone else by then.”
Tomorrow, Seokjin might walk away, and then he might come back the next day thirty years older. In thirty years Seokjin will be in his fifties, and Yoongi will still be in his twenties, and as naïve as he’s being even he can see why that might not work out. Thirty years of life experiences he’s missed out on. And Yoongi jerks his head up, “Fallen in love? You’re in love?”
Seokjin brings his hands up to cover his face, whether he’s embarrassed or he’s ashamed, Yoongi doesn’t know. Can’t tell.
Yoongi props himself up on one elbow and tugs away Seokjin’s hand, “Are you in love with me?”
Seokjin rolls over, stumbles off the bed, “I’m going to sleep now.” He’s out of the room before Yoongi can stop him. Although, Yoongi isn’t sure he wants to stop him. Maybe he misinterpreted things. They’re fake dating, it’s fake, that’s the whole point, and Seokjin only fake loves him even if- even if Yoongi’s not too sure that he’s faking his own feelings anymore. He’s not been sure for a long time.
Between the start of the conversation and the end of it, the rain has died down again. Now the only sounds are the wind whistling through the cracks in the window frame, and Yoongi’s laboured breathing, and groaning metal as Seokjin pulls out the sofa bed in the room next door.
After a while, there’s no noise at all from next door, and for the first time in a long time Yoongi feels truly alone in his apartment. Seokjin’s absence is like a severed limb, something that used to be there that he can no longer lean on for support. Not that he would ever use Seokjin to just prop him up. Would he? Yoongi sighs, sighs again. Letting all the air out of his lungs feels good, really emphasises how shitty he’s feeling.
And he thinks about what Seokjin said. About what it could have meant, as if it wasn’t the most straightforward statement in the world. Yoongi clambers under the covers and spends a few minutes just shifting around, trying to get comfortable, trying to take his mind off things. It doesn’t work. Seokjin’s words echo inside his head.
“I love you, too,” Yoongi mumbles under his breath, and it feels good to say it out loud. Feels important, feels powerful. Feels a little bit guilty. This is the wrong place, the wrong time.
Because that’s what this is. This is the wrong place and the wrong time for them both.
In the morning, Seokjin’s bag is already packed by the time Yoongi gets out of bed. He hadn’t slept, apart from a few minutes here and there throughout the night, and he only feels worse than before. Seokjin is dressed in his denim outfit again, looking out of place since Yoongi’s so used to seeing him in his updated wardrobe. Seeing Seokjin standing in his living room in that outfit gives him a weird sense of déjà vu.
“Have you packed everything?” Yoongi asks, leaning against his bedroom door.
Seokjin nods, “Yeah, I think so.”
“You should double check,” Yoongi says, “Just in case.”
“I should,” Seokjin says, and he puts his bags down. He has the rucksack he’d brought with him all those weeks ago, and the canvas tote bag he’d borrowed from Yoongi. Yoongi doesn’t have the heart to ask for it back. “I left some stuff. You know, stuff I couldn’t explain.”
“That’s okay.” Yoongi avoids asking what Seokjin’s leaving behind. He doesn’t want to know, and he’s going to avoid deep cleaning his apartment for months so he doesn’t come across it. Here it comes – the nights of overworking and eating tubs of ice cream that make his stomach hurt and calling Namjoon at three in the morning to ask how to spell science words and not tell him that he’s lonely.
It doesn’t take too long for Seokjin to look over the apartment- it’s not that big, and he’s been sharing most of Yoongi’s stuff anyway. Even so, he lingers.
“I guess I should say goodbye,” Seokjin says, and he looks out of the window to his side rather than at Yoongi.
“I guess,” Yoongi says. He tears himself away from the doorframe and towards the centre of the room where Seokjin’s standing. Seokjin holds out a hand for Yoongi to take, and Yoongi feels compelled, magnetised, to throw his arms around Seokjin’s waist instead.
“I’m gonna miss you,” he says into the smooth skin of Seokjin’s neck. He smells like honey shampoo and cherry blossom and a dozen other unidentifiable scents that Yoongi’s come to associate with him.
“I’m going to miss you, too,” Seokjin says, and he takes a few sharp breaths. They stay like that for what feels like years, intertwined, until Yoongi feels as though they’d never be able to separate. And then Seokjin loosens his arms from Yoongi’s back, and Yoongi steps away, and Seokjin steps away too, and then they’re not touching anymore, just looking at each other from arm’s length away.
“I’ve really,” Yoongi stops, steadies his voice as much as he possibly can in this situation, “I’ve really enjoyed these past few weeks. With you. I wish we had more time.”
“Me too,” Seokjin says, “I think we could have been happy for a long time. I hope – I hope you’re happy again without me.”
“Do you think I’ll see you again?” Yoongi asks, hesitant. He knows he shouldn’t ask but he has to, has to know the answer. This isn’t something he can keep guessing at for the rest of his life.
“I don’t know,” Seokjin says, and he shakes his head, “I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s what’s best for either of us. But I won’t forget you.”
“Okay,” Yoongi says, whispering as his voice betrays him, “I understand. I won’t forget you, either.”
Minutes pass where no one says anything – they just look at each other, Yoongi taking in each detail of Seokjin’s face, his shoulders, his waist, his hands, his soft eyes and soft mouth. He could just be getting his hopes up but he thinks Seokjin might be doing the same.
“I should go, now,” Seokjin says, and he picks up his bags. In a way, it doesn’t feel as though Seokjin’s really leaving. He’s only been in Yoongi’s life for such a short amount of time, and yet it doesn’t feel as though he could ever truly leave. Still, he has to go. He made his choice.
“Okay, “ Yoongi says, “Do you want me to see you downstairs?”
“No, thanks,” Seokjin says, gripping his bags tightly, “I know the way.” He walks to the door, unlocks it, cracks it open the smallest amount. He stops. “Thank you for everything, Yoonie. I really will miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too,” Yoongi says, and Seokjin opens the door, steps out. Yoongi wants to reach out but he doesn’t, and he knows he’ll regret that as soon as Seokjin’s out of sight. Seokjin sighs, takes one last look at the apartment, at Yoongi, and walks away.
He keeps walking and walking and he doesn’t look back, until he steps into the lift and turns to press the button. Yoongi waves. Seokjin waves back. And then the doors close and he’s gone, and part of Yoongi’s heart is gone, too.
After everything, the book is a success. It has to be, because Namjoon wouldn’t accept anything less. Yoongi is just happy that it’s finished. He doesn’t deserve Namjoon, honestly.
Publishing is a whirling experience that’s somehow gratifying and torturous and now Yoongi has to speak to people and do interviews and explain his themes.
(It’s love, Yoongi says in one interview when his head’s started to spin and he doesn’t know which person he’s talking to but it isn’t Seokjin, It’s about love, and what brings us together, and what pulls us apart. It’s about loving other people and yourself and what you do without reservation.
Then wouldn’t you say it’s more of a romance novel with science fiction elements?
Is there no love in science fiction? Yoongi says, and then, Maybe I added it in to make up for the lack of racism and sexism and homophobia-
When the article is published, Namjoon calls straight away to tell Yoongi off, but Yoongi can hear the smile in his voice.)
But Yoongi can’t argue that he’s not pleased with himself. He put in all this work and it’s payed off, no one can say it hasn’t payed off. His parents left a voicemail congratulating him and he never called them back because it sounded so, so fake but he did message Jihoon and that feels pretty good. He thinks about his aunt, and whether or not she’d be proud. He’d like to think so.
Maybe it’s not going to be a cult classic, and he doesn’t have a movie adaptation yet (although the thought of a movie adaptation makes him nervous anyway), and this isn’t going to pay all his bills forever, but he’s happy.
“You seem sad,” Jeongguk says one morning through a mouthful of scalding hot ramyeon, “I can’t help but think.”
“You should stop thinking,” Yoongi says, poking his food around with his chopsticks, “You know it’s bad for you.”
“I’m just saying,” Jeongguk says, gulping down another helping between words because he’s a disgusting brat, “You have this sad look.”
“I really don’t.” Yoongi pushes his ramyeon cup away. He’s not hungry anymore. Jeongguk grabs it eagerly and dives right in.
“You can’t deny it just because you can’t see it,” the more Jeongguk speaks, the more garbled his words become, “Besides, you’re getting your apartment all sad.” He pats the floor gently as if to reassure it. Yoongi snorts and looks away.
“I’m just stressed out while I’m doing press,” Yoongi says, “I don’t see why Namjoon thinks people care what I have to say.”
“You know he’s working really hard to get you those interviews,” Jeongguk says, then backtracks, “Not that I’m scolding you! But. He wants you to have the best chance.”
“I guess. But, like-” Yoongi is rarely unsure of what to say, but recently he’s finding it more and more difficult to say what’s on his mind, “I just. I get asked so many times about why I write or what’s my inspiration or whatever and I just don’t know, you know? I don’t care.”
“I think you miss Seokjin,” Jeongguk says, demolishing the last ramyeon cup in a way that would make Seokjin proud, “That’s what I think.”
That makes sense. That makes so much sense that Yoongi hates Jeongguk for being right. “Yeah, I miss him.”
“You wanted him to read your book,” Jeongguk says.
“No, it’s not a good book.”
“You wanted him to read it, though,” Jeongguk catches Yoongi’s eye, as if he’s challenging Yoongi to correct him. He can’t.
“Maybe he’s read it already,” Yoongi says looking off at the back wall, “He’s out there somewhere.”
Jeongguk leans forwards and swiftly but gently karate chops his neck, “Stop thinking like that. If he wanted to get in touch with you then he would.”
“It’s not that simple,” Yoongi says, and he wants that to believe that’s the truth. He’s made up a story about Seokjin moving away for work, about long-distance relationships being too difficult and not being able to stay in contact and everyone seems to have bought it. He almost buys it himself. He’s not sure what he’d even do if he saw Seokjin again now.
Last week he saw Jimin, doing his weekly food shopping, and he’d waved from the other end of the aisle, and Jimin had waved back, and he’d walked away and not thought about it again.
Yoongi wishes he hadn’t given all his ramyeon to Jeongguk, but it’s too late now.
“You’re going to be late to the signing,” Jeongguk says eventually, and he’s right. Not that Yoongi doesn’t care, but he’s got bigger things on his mind. Still, though, this is important for his career and it’s important to Namjoon and he gets changed into passable clothes and makes his way down to the bookshop, making small talk with Jeongguk all the way.
“Have fun!” Jeongguk says at the door, holding the door open while Yoongi goes in, “I’m going bowling with Tae.”
Yoongi gives him a woeful look, and Jeongguk just smiles sweetly. Then the door shuts behind him, and Yoongi left alone in the bookshop with Namjoon, shuffling out from behind the counter. Today, Namjoon is wearing a black and white ensemble, topped off with a broad-rimmed black hat. Indoors. In the centre of the room is a desk, covered with a tablecloth he recognises from their uni days and several dozen books. It still hasn’t quite hit Yoongi that they’re his books, that he wrote.
“I was starting to think you wouldn’t show up,” Namjoon says, “Are you doing okay?”
“I’m doing fine,” Yoongi says, “Sorry for not being here earlier.”
“It’s fine, you’re here now,” Namjoon says, and he ushers Yoongi into his chair, and bends down to sweep a stray hair back into his fringe, “You’re gonna do great today. It’s going to be a really rewarding experience and everyone’s going to have a really good time.”
Somehow Yoongi doubts that, but he does his best to get his head in the game, for Namjoon’s sake if no one else’s. The chair is reasonably comfy and he’s got some faith in Namjoon’s drink making skills. “Thanks for being supportive.”
“What are friends for?” Namjoon says, and he pulls his phone from one of his unbelievable tight jean pockets. “Now pretend to be happy so I can get a picture for my Instagram.”
Surprisingly, by the end of the day Yoongi’s actually had a pretty good time. He’s seen a lot of people who only cared about the book and not him, and some people who didn’t care about either, but the people who gave a shit have been able to ignite some kind of hope in him.
The interviews, the questions on the internet, they don’t seem to quite match the energy of real life people who’ve made the effort to come to him personally. As Namjoon sweeps the last stragglers out of the door, Yoongi feels choked up.
Around midday, he’s spoken to two younger girls who’d thanked him profusely for putting in a happy same-sex relationship, and it had hit him – they hadn’t known anything about him or his journey or about Seokjin, but they’d understood his book anyway. They’d related to it. They’d liked it.
For the amount of time it takes for Namjoon to sweep the floor and put the shelves back in order, Yoongi sits with his head in his hands and reflects. On writing, on the kind of person he’s become, on the very real possibility that he may never see Seokjin again. He might not have come to terms with it yet, may not ever come to terms with it entirely, but at least he hasn’t fallen apart. He goes out with Namjoon, with Jeongguk, with Hoseok, makes an effort at work without overdoing it.
He might not feel great, but he doesn’t feel too bad, either.
“I’m going to sort some stuff out in the back,” Namjoon says, “You did really well today.”
“Thanks,” Yoongi says, barely raising his head but at least making the effort to make eye contact, “I’ll put the table away.”
“Thank you,” Namjoon says, and he disappears through the door to the staff room. The only sounds now are the traffic outside, and the faint ticking of Yoongi’s watch. He attempts to get up, but his legs have gone completely numb, and he slumps onto the table, shutting his eyes.
At the front of the shop, the bell above the door rings, and footsteps approach Yoongi’s table. With a sharp smack, a book lands on the table in front of him.
“Sorry, I’m just packing up now,” Yoongi says as graciously as possible while he tries to untangle the legs of his chair from the table. He looks upwards just enough to see his own name printed on the book’s front cover.
A familiar hand pushes the book further towards him, “I know, but I’m a really big fan.” A chill runs through Yoongi like a cold stone dropped into the depths of his stomach. He doesn’t dare to look up.
“Maybe I have time for one more,” he says, tongue scratching like a cactus against his dry throat. “Who should I make it out to?”
“Min Yoongi’s boyfriend, please,” Seokjin says with a lopsided smile, pushing the book almost into Yoongi’s lap. “Or Kim Seokjin, for short.” Seokjin doesn’t look a day over twenty-five.
Which is because he isn’t. No fifty year-old could ever look that good, no matter the skin routine, which means-
Seokjin came back. He came back. Seokjin is here.
Yoongi takes the book with trembling hands and flips open the front cover. The only reason his autograph comes out as recognisably his is thanks to hours of muscle memory. “Min Yoongi’s boyfriend,” he says in hushed tones, too afraid to shatter the moment by speaking too loudly and drawing attention to this moment that shouldn’t be happening, “Did you like my book?”
“Ah, I loved it. I especially loved the romance, although I thought the time travel plot was a bit far-fetched,” Seokjin takes the book from Yoongi’s outstretched hand and observes the sloppy heart scrawled under his name. “Did you miss me?”
“Did I miss you?” Yoongi repeats, “Did I miss you?”
“I thought so,” Seokjin says, “Did you keep my apartment tidy?”
Tears prick at Yoongi’s eyes and he wills them away, swallows against the lump forming in his throat, “No. I left your keys on the coat hook for you, though.”
“You put your keys back in the fruit bowl, didn’t you?” Seokjin asks, bright bookstore lights glimmering off the wetness in his own eyes.
“Yeah,” Yoongi says, “I did. Do you want to get coffee?”
“I’d love to.”